Tuesday, 29 March 2011
Question 34: To ask the Minister for Enterprise; Trade and Innovation when the Source Ireland portal will be set up as per the Programme for Government; the persons who will be responsible for running this portal; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5861/11]
Question 36: To ask the Minister for Enterprise; Trade and Innovation when the new Export Trade Council will be established; the number of members that will be appointed to this Council; the way these members will be appointed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5860/11]
Question 39: To ask the Minister for Enterprise; Trade and Innovation if the commitment in the Programme for Government to implement the recommendations of the Trading and Investment in the Smart Economy means that he will see through the Smart Economy strategy [5793/11]
Question 52: To ask the Minister for Enterprise; Trade and Innovation the way local trade and investment teams will be set up in emerging economies; the persons whose remit these will be under and the persons who will be responsible for overseeing their activities, including reviewing their targets; the way the scholarship scheme be administered; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5862/11]
I propose to take Questions Nos. 34, 36, 39, 52 and 60 together.
The Government believes that Ireland's economic recovery must be export led and as such, is committed to taking the actions necessary to support that export growth to the maximum possible. We are also committed to promoting the long-term development of new markets. The programme for Government has outlined the Government's commitment towards the progressive implementation of the recommendations in Trading and Investing in a Smart Economy, which was launched in September last. This is the first time that all of the relevant agencies and Department involved in promoting overseas trade, tourism and investment came together with an integrated approach to achieve a set of agreed priorities and targets for both existing and new high-growth potential markets. The targets agreed by these agencies are to be implemented through a suite of actions driven by a recently established Foreign Trade Council. These actions are aimed at strengthening Ireland's international image and brand, strengthening in-country presence and support, developing and internationalising our enterprise base, developing Ireland as a hub for global high-technology enterprises and clusters, aligning visa policy with priorities in the strategy, support for SMEs, continuing develop of international trade agreements, joint actions and partnerships with other countries and effective engagement with the business community.
The Government supports the overall objective of the strategy and action plan which is to marshal and co-ordinate the resources of the State. We believe that its implementation will result in sustained efforts of all key Departments and agencies. As soon as the transfer of trade functions to the new Department of foreign affairs and trade, as announced by the Taoiseach, has been effected, the nature, structure, future role and time lines of the proposed export trade council will be considered as a matter of urgency. The Government is conscious of the need to avoid establishing new groups and bodies unless absolutely necessary and will therefore consider what amendments to the membership and terms of reference are needed to re-align the existing Foreign Trade Council, one of which is to introduce private sector membership onto that body.
As I highlighted already, the Government fully supports the consensus that economic recovery will be export led. Included in the process of achieving that will be looking at all initiatives to facilitate export growth and there will be an examination of how we can better provide a portal for companies seeking to export Irish good through a single Source Ireland portal. There are also proposals to introduce a home-to-export initiative which would focus on companies exporting for the first time.
I am conscious of the valuable work already undertaken by Enterprise Ireland in helping Irish companies to sell their goods and services abroad, and this is an opportunity to develop that work. It includes breaking into new and high growth markets such as the BRIC countries and also in facilitating existing Irish companies in getting new and innovative products into new markets.
I welcome the Source Ireland portal proposed by the Government to market Irish goods and services overseas. When will this be developed? Has the Department begun to develop this? How will enterprises link in to it?
There is a website already established called thinkirish.ie. Is the Minister intending to develop the portal along the lines of that site and co-operate with those who operate it?
As I indicated in reply to an earlier question, we are developing within my Department a jobs programme into which each of these initiatives will slot. We are examining the existing operations and how they can be improved and amplified by proposals such as the Source Ireland portal and the other initiatives specifically targeting exports.
No doubt many small businesses have the capability to export. Enterprise Ireland now recognises that a greater amount of its effort needs to go to a wider range of companies that might not have always been regarded as the key exporters in order to see where the job opportunities can be developed. Typically, it will be in smaller companies. We are looking at how a package of measures can be developed that help smaller companies to break into export markets. We hope there will be a series of initiatives that will be knitted together. I hope to develop that package within 100 days.
It is a work in progress at this stage.
In terms of the export trade council issue, there is already a Foreign Trade Council in existence which is made up of senior representatives from relevant Departments. The concept of that is to promote the brand Ireland, develop the St. Patrick's Day potential; and trade missions utilising the existing embassies. When the export trade council is established, what will be different about it from the Foreign Trade Council? There is a mixture of public and private sector involvement. The concern, which I am sure the Minister would share, is that we do not need another quango. We need to know what are the terms of reference and what is distinctive from the Foreign Trade Council.
What is the procedure for the appointment of personnel from the private sector? There has been much criticism of the appointments of the outgoing Government as it was about to leave office. Will the procedure for appointments come before this House so that we can scrutinise the capacity of the individuals appointed?
The idea of introducing trade into the Foreign Affairs brief is to get a better focus from the diplomatic service on the need to make those embassies the selling point for Ireland, both in investment and in trade. The need to use that instrument in which we invest to best advantage is shared widely across the House. To be fair, many of those embassies are already doing that. That is the logic of including trade under the remit of the Department of Foreign Affairs. Clearly, that transfer will take time. The development of the new export trade council will be done jointly, with the Tánaiste as a key player.
The introduction of private sector players is believed to bring greater focus in that the needs of business are brought directly into the mix when strategies are worked out.
We are not losing momentum. Local teams for the promotion of trade and tourism investment, including State agencies and local ambassadors, have been working and developing plans. That work is ongoing. However, the method of appointment and detailed terms of reference have not yet been decided. I recognise, as I did in my earlier response, the Deputies' concern. We are not trying to create big quangos. We believe that, owing to the need to export and the depressed state of the domestic market, we must maximise the impact of the foreign resource and sweat these assets. That is the purpose of this work.