CETA-ICS Letter Signed by Civil Society Groups and Networks.

CETA – EU Canada Trade & Investment Deal


We wish to raise our concern regarding the EU-Canada trade deal, CETA, and specifically the upcoming Dáil vote on the investor protection element of this deal. CETA establishes an investment protection tribunal also known as Investment Court System (ICS). ICS is a rebranded version of the highly contentious Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) system.

ICS provides a dispute settlement tribunal where foreign investors can take a case against a state for perceived breaches in CETA’s investment protection standards.

This mechanism would sit outside the remit of national courts and the European Court of Justice (ECJ), instead setting up new structures with the power to impose large financial penalties on governments and ultimately the tax-payers. There is nothing to stop foreign investors taking a case to the national law courts or thereafter the ECJ, as they see fit.

We believe that this is anti-democratic. At this urgent juncture of multiple overlapping crises, ISDS erodes our democracies and the power held by ordinary people in favour of multinational corporations.

ISDS is a legacy of the colonial era when Western powers sought to protect their investments in the newly decolonising countries.

Many of the ISDS cases taken in recent years have been for amounts running to billions of Euro. With regard to the climate crisis, it is worth noting that of the 10 largest payouts in ISDS, all but one were above 1 billion euros. Seven of those were fossil fuel companies and two were mining companies. So, corporations operating in environmentally sensitive sectors are the ones that are using the system, and getting the largest pay-outs.

Ireland has been the recipient of foreign direct investment for many decades. However, we are not party to any international trade deals which include an ISDS element. So, the argument that we need to sign up to this mechanism is patently false. It is noteworthy too, that the Brexit trade deal did not include an ISDS element and the Canadian state remained outside the ISDS chapter in the recently concluded USA-Mexico-Canada trade deal.

It is important to state that the vote that is due to come before the Dáil, irrespective of how it will be phrased, is not actually dealing with trade. The trade element of CETA has been agreed by the EU and in operation since 2017. The vote is arising from the European Court of Justice determination that the investor protection element is not within the competence of the EU, and therefore each member state is being asked to vote on this agreement with its ISDS/ICS provisions.

There was an attempt to rush this vote before Christmas in the Dáil, without debate, despite Seanad Éireann debating and voting against CETA in 2016. There is no pressure on Ireland to vote for CETA, nearly half the countries in the EU have yet to vote on CETA where its legality and overall benefit is still under consideration, including countries such as Germany, France and Italy. We call on our public representatives to critically examine the ISDS/ICS provisions in CETA and urge a no vote to protect the public interest.


Mark Cumming –  Comhlámh

Joe Murray –  AfrI

Stephen McCloskey – Centre for Global Education

Clodagh Daly – Climate Case Ireland

Dublin Friends of the Earth

Karen Ciesielski – Environmental Pillar

Extinction Rebellion Ireland

Caroline Whyte – Feasta

Max Fulham – FridaysForFuture Ireland

Oisín Coghlan – Friends of the Earth

Tony Lowes – Friends of the Irish Environment

Eoin Ó Leidhin – Gluaiseacht.

Patricia King – Irish Congress of Trade Unions

Alba Martos Rosa – Latin America Solidarity Centre

Orla O Connor – National Women’s Council

Richard Curtin – Not Here Not Anywhere

One Future Dublin South-Central. 

Paul McCormack Cooney – One Future Dublin South West

Jim Clarken – Oxfam Ireland

Frank Keoghan – People’s Movement

Brian O’ Toole – Presentation Interprovincial Justice Desk

Fidelma O’Kane – Save Our Sperrins

Sadhbh O’Neill – Stop Climate Chaos coalition

Students’ Climate Action Network

Pádraic Fogarty – The Irish Wildlife Trust

Caoimhe De Barra – Trócaire

Lorna Fitzpatrick – Union of Students in Ireland

Wexford Environmental Network 

Published 10th February 2021