Dáil Éireann - Volume 405 - 26 February, 1991

Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - GATT Negotiations.

7. Mr. Barry asked the Minister for Industry and Commerce if he will outline the possible gains for Irish industry and services which would accrue from a successful conclusion of the GATT negotiations.

[1447] Mr. O'Malley: The Uruguay Round of GATT negotiations was initiated to reinforce the multilateral trading system and enhance its ability to respond to today's trading needs. The traditional areas of negotiations, such as tariffs and non-tariff barriers affecting merchandise trade, have been supplemented by what are termed “the new subjects”, such as international services and trade related intellectual property rights.

All countries dedicated to free and open trading have a strong interest in a successful conclusion to the negotiations as this should ensure greater stability in the world trading system. In such an eventuality, Irish industry would benefit directly from increased access for its merchandise trade to all third country markets under more predictable and transparent conditions. In particular, it should benefit from the boost which a successful round will give to the European Community in terms of the allround increased prosperity which will follow and our aspirations for an enhanced share of the Single Market.

Similarly, a successful conclusion to the negotiations in the “new subjects” should ensure greater transparency and certainty in the application internationally of rules governing trade in services. Standardisation and liberalisation in rules over a range of sectors should provide a more secure operational environment for Irish exporters of services activities. New rules on intellectual property rights should remove many abuses in international trade such as counterfeit or illegal uses of trademarks and infringements of certain types of copyright. Again, they can only serve to better the interests of bona fide traders in international markets, including, obviously, many Irish concerns.

As a small open economy with a significant trade surplus, an open and fair multilateral trading system is clearly to our advantage. A successful conclusion to the Uruguay Round should give us a clear set of rules for international trade into the next century. Failure could lead to increased protectionism, particularly in the US, and a likely decline in world [1448] trade, resulting in fewer and less open markets for Irish exports.

Mr. Barry: Does the Minister not agree that the list of benefits will largely accrue to us anyway with the advent of 1992 in the European context, whereas the benefits outside Europe will not be as significant as the amount we will lose by the dismantling of the CAP and that which we will have to concede in the GATT negotiations on agriculture?

Mr. O'Malley: It would be very wrong for us simply to want to be European or European Community traders.

Mr. Barry: I do not see that as the way we would want to go.

Mr. O'Malley: If the Single Market is achieved in the way we are anxious that it should be — and I am hopeful that it will be so achieved — that will give us and everybody else in the Community tremendous opportunities. It would be very wrong for us to be inward looking or regional in this respect. If we were, it would encourage other trading blocs or regions to look similarly on the future and that would be disastrous. I am anxious in particular that the United States and Japan should not look upon it in that way and that the Pacific rim countries should not approach the future of world trade in that way. It is to our benefit as part of the European Community and as an individual country to have the freest and most open trading possible in the world.

An Ceann Comhairle: The time for priority questions is well high exhausted. I will allow a brief question.

Mr. Barry: Would the Minister not agree, outside the merits or demerits of an open economy, that we will be major losers following the conclusion of the GATT negotiations because we will be losing substantially in the agricultural sector, while any gains in the industrial sector will largely be available inside the European framework?

[1449] Mr. O'Malley: I do not necessarily agree. The Deputy puts a suggestion that the agricultural negotiations will inevitably have to go in a particular way. The agricultural negotiations, effectively, are only starting now because no agreement could be reached even to open the negotiations at ministerial level in Brussels in December and it would be pre-juding the matter at this stage to say what way they will go. The Irish negotiators are very conscious of the importance and very high value of agriculture to the Irish economy. That has been borne in mind in the negotiations to date and will continue to be.

Mr. Barry: Not just to the agricultural community but to the whole economy.

An Ceann Comhairle: Other questions, please, to the same Minister.