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Parliamentary debates and questions

S5W-03348: Mark Ruskell (Mid Scotland and Fife)

Scottish Green Party

Date lodged: 3 October 2016

To ask the Scottish Government, further to the answers to questions S5W-00972 and S5W-00973 by Keith Brown on 12 July 2016, whether it will publish its assessment of the possible impact on Scotland of the Section D provisions of the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA).

Answered by: Keith Brown 16 November 2016

The Scottish Government believes in free and open trade and we welcome the benefits that trade agreements can bring, in CETA, particularly the elimination of nearly all import duties and strengthened cooperation between European and Canadian standard setting bodies. However we must take the greatest care to ensure that issues about which the public are rightly concerned are dealt with.

NHS Scotland has not been specifically listed as exempt from the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA).

As indicated in response to S5W-00972, the Scottish Government carried out an initial assessment of the Section D provisions of CETA and considered it unlikely that these would to any appreciable extent restrict the legislation which the Scottish Parliament can pass in the interests of the public and the environment. Since then, it was announced on 29 February 2016 that the European Commission and the Canadian Government have agreed to include a new approach on investment protection and investment dispute settlement, the investor Court System in CETA.

Whilst this goes some way to addressing concerns about ISDS, the Scottish Government remains of the view that, given the established legal systems and strong rule of law in the EU and Canada, disputes between investors and states should be settled in domestic courts. Furthermore, the Scottish Ministers have emphasised that Governments must be free to act and regulate in the public interest and that CETA must not include anything which enables companies to sue because they disagree with democratic public policy. We understand that the Commission will work with Canada to further elaborate some of the parameters of this new system and look forward to seeing the outcome of that work.

Our initial assessment constituted legal advice and, as such, we would not publish that advice.

In September 2016, the former Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs, Food and the Environment wrote to the UK Government's Secretary of State for Agriculture, Rural Affairs and the Environment seeking an explanation as to why, when other countries have sought protection, the UK Government does not appear to have put forward any Protected Food Names for inclusion in CETA to give Scottish producers protection in Canada. However we welcome the fact that the agreement means the EU can add other products' names to the list in the future.

Now that Canada and the EU have signed the agreement it will be laid before the UK Parliament for ratification. Now is an opportune time to re emphasise to the UK Government that our ability to regulate and our ability to determine how the national health service should operate in our country should in no way be compromised by trade agreements and I have written today to Secretary of State for International Trade in those terms.