Concerns over new US trade deal with Europe

Terry Leyden

The European Commissioner for Trade Cecilia Malmstrom has said Ireland will not be flooded by hormone-treated beef thanks to strict import conditions under the new US trade deal with Europe.

Speaking at the Oireachtas European Unions Affairs Committee, Fianna Fáil senator Terry Leyden suggested that Americans would “flood Ireland with cheap hormone-fed beef”.

The commissioner said it was the view of member states that such beef was banned. Under the trade deal, there would be strict controls whereby there could be two production lines in the US, as is currently the trade agreement it has with Canada.

She said beef entering the EU under the new deal would be monitored and complaints addressed.

Ms Malmstrom was in Dublin to give reassurances over the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership which she referred to as the most debated trade agreement in history.

The suggested agreement will eliminate tariffs between Europe and the US — which are currently quite low — and realign regulation between the two economic powerhouses to reduce costs.

Opponents to the deal however, are extremely concerned over aspects of the partnership deal including the controversial investor-state dispute settlement mechanism which they claim hands disproportionate power to corporates which allows them to sue sovereign states.

Ms Malmstrom said a new investment arbitration system would be drawn up as part of the partnership deal that would include:

  • Independent arbitrators.
  • A proper appeal system.
  • Clear rules to prevent companies from trying to get around domestic legal systems.
  • An unambiguous statement that governments have the right to make policy in the public interest

The commissioner added that she envisaged a system that could not be used to challenge “Ireland’s admirable legislation on plain packaging for tobacco products” but did acknowledge “surprising” instances where tobacco companies had sought to use similar EU trade agreements to their advantage. A government report released yesterday found the partnership deal would aid employment, investment and growth adding €2bn to GDP and creating 5,000 to 10,000 jobs.

The Irish Exporters Association, Ibec and the Small Firms Association have all lent their support to the trade agreement but the Green Party, IFA and advocacy group Uplift are strongly opposed to elements of it, as is Sinn Féin MEP Matt Carthy.

Uplift director Siobhán O’Donoghue said: “The Irish government’s support for the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership is bizarre. We have more to lose than other countries.

“Giving multinationals the right to be consulted on public policy and the right to circumvent the national court system, if they feel their profit margins are threatened, blatantly undermines our democracy and economic sovereignty.”

The IFA said the deal presented a significant risk to the beef sector which the Government-commissioned economic report found could lose €25m to €50m a year due to increased competition from low-cost US producers.

These losses would be outweighed by wider agri-sector gains of €230m to €270m in extra sales.

Green Party leader Eamon Ryan said it was a deal designed by and for global corporations and labelled the dispute mechanism as a disastrous surrender of Irish sovereignty to corporate interests.


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