Trade deal upsets states

Jobs minister Richard Bruton has described as justifiable the criticism of a controversial dispute mechanism that can see investors sue sovereigns and which is set to apply to Ireland as part of a new trade agreement.

The investor state dispute settlement mechanism which forms part of numerous trade deals globally and is set to be included in the hotly debated Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership between the EU and US has drawn the ire of concerned parties who claim it undermines the rights of sovereign states to regulate industry.

The dispute resolution has been used by large multinational firms to sue countries leading to significant upset over the Government’s backing of its inclusion in the trade partnership.

Mr Bruton’s comments, which referenced the “weaknesses” of investor state dispute settlements, represent a departure from his previous comments on the issue and those of other Cabinet ministers.

He added, however, that the trade partnership negotiations give the EU an opportunity to make improvements and create a new generation of investor state dispute settlement models that address the weaknesses identified in other agreements.

The existing framework for the investor state dispute settlements also provides important provisions protecting the right of government to regulate, according to the minister who was among the signatories of a letter to EU trade commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom last October supporting the inclusion of the dispute mechanism in the trade partnership.

A shift towards reforming the investor state dispute settlement is merely a distraction that would make little impact in limiting the power of corporates, according to the director of campaign group Uplift.

Siobhán O’Donoghue said that Ireland would not be hoodwinked into supporting a trade agreement that threatens the country’s democracy and economic sovereignty.

“The fact is that any form of investor state dispute settlement would still allow corporations to circumvent domestic courts and would still interfere with governments’ right to regulate on areas such as the environment, public health, workers rights, food and agriculture,” Ms O’Donoghue said.

The EU Commission estimates the trade partnership could generate 400,000 additional jobs in member states with up to 8,000 in Ireland, says the Government.

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