TTIP – Threat To Irish Beef Industry And Wider National Interests

Mechanism in TTIP agreement ‘allows corporations to sue governments for loss of revenue when government regulations are seen to affect expected profits.’

Sligo News File Online

Senator Michael Comiskey, Fine Gael
Senator Michael Comiskey, Fine Gael

Michael Comiskey, a Leitrim-based Fine Gael senator, seems to believe the agreement known as the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership Agreement (TTIP for short) currently being negotiated between the EU and United States will not have any impact on Ireland’s beef industry.

What he has been reading, or where he has come by the information isn’t apparent, but in an interview with Ocean FM he went on to say that hormone treated beef commonly produced by the American farming industry will not be allowed into Ireland. If we understood him correctly, he appears to be suggesting that because of the ban on hormone treated beef, our beef trade, therefore, will be protected from any threat posed by the United States beef industry following the signing of the TTIP.

It is hard to imagine the Leitrim Senator would not be aware that the Americans are quite capable of mass producing beef other than the hormone laced kind, and if it suits their interests – which it will – assail EU and Irish markets with beef product, and much else in the form of their kind of mass produced food.

Given the scale of the threat the TTIP signals for the Irish beef sector, farm bodies need to be very alert to the danger and play their part in ensuring an industry which has been assiduiosly developed and expanded is not going to be obliterated because of an EU sell out to the US.

Comiskey isn’t doing farm families any favours in elaborating on tariff savings to the State  while, at the same time, failing to reveal the dangers inherent in the TTIP – a process being handled by the EU Commission.

Of course, colossal damage to our beef industry isn’t the only danger which the TTIP poses to our national interests, and, too, our democracy and sovereignty.

Michael Colreavy, TD,  Sinn Fein, Sligo-Leitrim.
Michael Colreavy, TD,
Sinn Fein, Sligo-Leitrim.

For example, as Sinn Fein TD, and party’s spokesperson on Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, Michael Colreavy has pointed out, there is huge controversy in Ireland and Europe over a TTIP mechanism called the investor-to-state dispute settlement (ISDS). Comiskey incidentally hasn’t mentioned this. The mechanism, states Colreavy “allows corporations to sue governments for loss of revenue when government regulations are seen to affect expected profits.

“Through ISDS, companies can bypass the national court systems and go directly to international, investor-biased, tribunals.”

This for instance, could happen in relation to hydraulic fracturing. In the event the ISDS is encompassed in the TTIP, the Irish government “can be sued for millions of Euro for implementing any protections or bans on fracking,” says Colreavy.

Scary stuff for Ireland.

For those who may seek to argue otherwise, Colreavy recounts a Canadian case where, in 2012, the province of Quebec put in place a moratorium on fracking similar to that in Ireland to allow time for a survey to be carried out.

He said, “As a result of ISDS enshrined in the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), Canada is being sued for Cdn$250 million for potential profit loss.”

Liadh O'Riada, MEP, Sinn Fein
Liadh O’Riada, MEP,
Sinn Fein

At EU level, Sinn Fein MEP Liadh Ní Riada is jointly involved with party’s Midlands-North West MEP, Matt Carty in opposing the TTIP.

She said, “Sinn Féin will not support this trade agreement and we will be challenging any efforts to try and reduce EU standards particularly around food, the environment, workers and consumers rights.

“Furthermore, Sinn Féin will not be voting in favour of any agreement that includes an appalling and terrifying mechanism such as the Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) mechanism. In essence, this would allow corporations to sue governments for loss of revenue when government regulations are seen to affect expected profits. Through ISDS, companies can bypass the national court systems and go directly to international, investor-biased, tribunals.

“I believe it is the right of governments to enact policy that they believe will benefit or protect their citizens. The ISDS mechanism and the possibility that it could be used by large corporations not only challenges that right but could act as a deterrent for governments wishing to  introduce legislation. Citizens’ health and
well-being should never be secondary to private profit.

Ní Riada said, “it was important to note that Fine Gael MEPs are in support of this agreement. Indeed, Seán Kelly who is the only Irish MEP on the European Parliament´s International Trade Committee voted in favour of this agreement at committee stage. This is really disappointing. It is high time that they started putting the interests of the Irish people before that of big business.”

Sean Kelly, MEP. Fine Gael
Sean Kelly, MEP.
Fine Gael

In a subsequent press statement, Ni Riada was highly critical of Kelly “following a call by the Fine Gael MEP  to have a potential international court for TTIPs Investor-State Dispute Settlement mechanism (ISDS) located in Ireland.”

She said, “The mechanism of the International State Dispute Settlement court is part of the highly controversial TTIP agreement which has been met with widespread public opposition across the European Union.

“The unwavering support for the TransAtlantic Trade and Investment Partnership demonstrated by Sean Kelly MEP and his Fine Gael colleagues amounts to an extraordinary selling-out of the Irish people on an international scale.

“Mr Kelly’s call for the ISDS court to be located in Ireland is a pathetic attempt to construct a so-called ‘good-news story’ which the Irish people will be asked to digest thereby glossing over the insidious nature of this agreement.

“His claims that locating the ISDS court in Ireland would generate jobs smacks of the hollow rhetoric used by the establishment parties during the campaigns on the Nice, Lisbon and Austerity treaties. We have all seen the outworking of those empty promises over the last few years.

“The reality is that the ISDS is a shady, behind-closed-doors forum for corporations to sue governments. The mechanism basically undermines the democratic right of parliaments to legislate in the best interests of their people. It turns the legislative focus to the interests of multinational companies and private investors. In 2013 the ISDS clause in the North American Free Trade agreement was used by fracking companies to sue the Canadian Government for loss of profits after it introduced a moratorium on the dangerous extraction process due to public safety and environmental concerns. In Australia ISDS mechanisms were used by tobacco companies to challenge the federal government over its public health measures relating to smoking.

“It is scandalous,” she said, “that an Irish MEP would want such an entity located in our country. It shouldn’t be located anywhere
as its existence would be an affront to democracy.

Matt Carty, MEP, Sinn Fein.
Matt Carty, MEP,
Sinn Fein.

“My fellow Sinn Féin MEP Matt Carthy has been voicing our concerns over TTIP for over a year, and the Sinn Féin delegation in
Brussels have been working with other concerned groups to oppose this dangerous and destructive agreement. Sinn Féin will continue
to oppose bad deals for Ireland and to prioritise the needs of our people over the interests of huge multinationals.

“Sean Kelly, in his support for TTIP and the ISDS mechanism, has completely betrayed his responsibility to defend the democratic and
economic interests of the Irish people.”