Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise Trade and Employment Leo Varadkar today insisted that the EU-Canada Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) should have been ratified "ages ago".

The Minister said the deal is good for Ireland - whose wealth is built on exports - and he called for the deal's prompt implementation.

Otherwise Leo Varadkar warned that Ireland risks sending a "bad message" and falling into the "laggard group".

Speaking at the Joint Committee on Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Mr Varadkar said Ireland has the opportunity to tell Canada that "this is a place where you should be placing your European business".

Ireland already does this with the US, he said.

Sinn Féin's Louise O'Reilly questioned the necessity of the Government's "sense of urgency".

Green Party Senator Roisin Garvey also said she hoped that only goods that cannot be produced in Ireland are imported.

She called for a focus on producing more goods - particularly food stuffs - domestically.

The Senator cautioned that the debate on CETA had been "simplistic and polarising".

Mr Varadkar said that imported good are generally more cheaply produced abroad, particularly furniture and clothes.

He also said the impact of the agreement on the environment is not large.

PBP-Solidarity TD Paul Murphy questioned the sense of Ireland signing up to a treaty which involves investors' court systems.

The Tánaiste said any suggestion that CETA "allows Canadian companies to sue the State, or take us to court for discrimination" is simply "not the case".

He added that the deal includes a dispute resolution mechanism akin to many other international agreements.

Deputy Murphy countered that it "continues the same bad practice of a parallel justice, which only corporations can access".

However, Fine Gael's Richard Bruton agreed that the agreement is "particularly protective" of the State's rights.

Mr Varadkar said smaller companies in particular would benefit from the removal of charges and trade barriers.

He reassured the committee that there is an entire chapter of CETA dedicated to SMEs.

The Tánaiste also said that a number of Canadian property companies invest in Ireland and fund new housing here.

This will not change as a result of CETA, he added.