Written answers

Wednesday, 30 April 2008

Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment

World Trade Negotiations

8:00 pm

Photo of Niall CollinsNiall Collins (Limerick West, Fianna Fail)
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Question 37: To ask the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the main obstacles to a comprehensive World Trade Organisation agreement; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16451/08]

Photo of Charlie O'ConnorCharlie O'Connor (Dublin South West, Fianna Fail)
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Question 44: To ask the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment his views on whether a balanced outcome is possible at the World Trade Organisation talks; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16463/08]

Photo of Darragh O'BrienDarragh O'Brien (Dublin North, Fianna Fail)
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Question 54: To ask the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment his views on whether the European Union External Trade Commissioner has exceeded his mandate in relation to World Trade Organisation negotiations; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16470/08]

Photo of Margaret ConlonMargaret Conlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Fianna Fail)
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Question 66: To ask the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if his attention has been drawn to the fact that there is concern at developments relating to the World Trade Organisation and that, specifically, there is dismay at the negotiating position being adopted by Commissioner Mandelson; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16468/08]

Photo of Darragh O'BrienDarragh O'Brien (Dublin North, Fianna Fail)
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Question 70: To ask the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment his views on developments with regard to the World Trade Organisation negotiations; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16469/08]

Photo of Niall CollinsNiall Collins (Limerick West, Fianna Fail)
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Question 73: To ask the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if he has confidence in the stance taken by European Trade Commissioner, Mr. Peter Mandelson, with regard to the World Trade Organisation talks; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16452/08]

Photo of Áine BradyÁine Brady (Kildare North, Fianna Fail)
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Question 75: To ask the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if he agrees with the views of the Irish Farmer's Association on the threat posed to the economy here by the stance being taken by Commissioner Mandelson on the World Trade Organisation talks; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16456/08]

Photo of John McGuinnessJohn McGuinness (Minister of State with special responsibility for Trade and Commerce, Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment; Carlow-Kilkenny, Fianna Fail)
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I propose to take Questions Nos. 37, 44, 54, 66, 70, 73 and 75 together.

Talks on the WTO Doha Development Round have been making slow progress since they commenced in 2001. The process inevitably extends over a very lengthy timeframe because of the multiple concerns that 151 WTO members bring to the process and where the outcome is based on consensus. Negotiations are exceptionally complicated not only because of the huge number of countries involved, but also because of the different interests, needs and expectations each of them bring to the table. In addition to compromises that have to be worked out in the key negotiating pillars on agriculture, industrial products, services, trade facilitation etc., considerable trade-offs and agreements have to be reached on concessions by both developed and developing economies. This Round is distinctively different from earlier ones because the development needs of less well off countries are given a special priority.

While there is a tangible change in the mood for and ambition to complete the round this year, negotiations are still very far from complete. In two of the most critical aspects of the talks, on agricultural and non agricultural produce, new texts and options will be issued by the chairs of these negotiating groups later this month or in early May. Whether the round will be completed this year or not I cannot say because there is an enormous amount of work still to be undertaken. The complete round includes other elements that are important to help reduce or remove obstacles that inhibit moving a small step closer to the type of free trade that our exporters benefit from for example in EU trade. It is only when all aspects of the talks have been agreed as a single undertaking will we see how effective our negotiators have been in securing a fair and balanced outcome for both Ireland and the other 26 Member States of the EU.

The talks have to make more progress on delivering better market access opportunities for our broad enterprise sector. The success of our manufacturing and services exporters have made an enormous contribution to economic growth. Much of our trade is with markets in developed countries where trade liberalization has been more advanced. Our exporters are increasingly looking to strong, emerging economies where there is significant dynamic growth. We are looking to the WTO negotiations to help support our well established enterprise policy objectives by bringing about important tariff reductions and providing our manufacturing and services entrepreneurs with greater market access opportunities with lower costs.

In this context the EU's Trade Commissioner Mr. Peter Mandelson conducts trade negotiations on behalf of the European union on the basis of a mandate given to him by the Council of Ministers. In addition to meeting him personally to present our interests in the round, he attends EU Council of Ministers meetings at which the WTO talks are discussed. I know he understands very well the problems Ireland faces given the current direction of the negotiations because the Government uses every public and private opportunity to reiterate forcefully the needs for an equitable and balanced outcome from the Geneva talks.

At the moment, however, there is considerable uncertainty about what could eventually be agreed in Geneva. While there has been extensive public comment about what the WTO talks will mean for Ireland, I think it is too early to be precise about the impact on either the economy generally or many of its important sectors, including agriculture. If, however, some of the proposals circulating in Geneva were to arise I am very concerned about what this would mean for our farming sector. While I have not seen the assumptions underlying the analysis prepared by the Irish Farmers Association, I share their overall interest in wanting a Doha Round that does not irreparably damage Irish agriculture, recognizes the structural reforms that have already taken place under CAP Reform and ensures that the sacrifices already made by the EU agri sector are acknowledged.

I and my Government colleagues, have consistently and vigorously urged the EU Commission to work for a balanced agreement that is not at the expense of either EU or Irish agriculture. We believe this is possible if moderation can be applied to the extreme impacts that some Geneva ideas could mean for us and if the Commission aims for ambitious opportunities in other areas such as wider ranging market access and lower trade barriers for services and non agricultural products. However as things stand I cannot see the necessary, critical balance of benefits that would bring us the broader benefits we hope for. I would hope that the new texts promised by the Chairmen of Agriculture and NAMA negotiating groups will reduce our concerns about where the negotiations are currently taking us in terms of the direct and significant agricultural impact for Ireland, while setting a more exciting and liberal trading environment for the main drivers of our economy in manufacturing and services.

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