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Irish Ministers, led by Tánaiste, staunchly advocate Irish interests at difficult World Trade negotiations

Speaking in Geneva, where they are participating in the WTO/DDA trade negotiations, the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Ms Mary Coughlan TD, Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, Mr Brendan Smith TD and the Minister for Trade and Commerce, Mr John McGuinness TD, today reiterated their desire to achieve a comprehensive, ambitious and balanced outcome to the current negotiations. The Minister for Overseas Development, Mr Peter Power TD, also attended the negotiations earlier in the week to address development concerns.

The Ministers confirmed that they have been engaged in robust negotiations with key players defending and promoting Irish interests in what are proving to be very difficult trade talks. All three Ministers have been attending daily meetings of the EU General Affairs Council (GAERC) as well as a series of bilateral meetings with other countries, including the French EU Presidency, and the EU Commission. Minister Smith has also attended meetings of the G 14+ group of agriculture ministers from like-minded countries.

The Ministers said that these meetings provided opportunities to consistently highlight "our very real concerns on Agriculture" while working for "positive outcomes on manufacturing industry and services which will deliver opportunities for Irish manufacturing and services companies through better access to world markets and in so doing will secure Irish jobs for years to come."

Agriculture

Commenting on the agriculture discussions, Minister Smith said that his objective was to "ensure the best possible tariff protection for key Irish agricultural products - beef, dairy, sheepmeat etc". The Minister also said that

"despite certain clarifications provided in relation to the Green Box and other issues, I and a large number of other Member States are continuing to seek assurances about remaining ambiguities in the current text".

NAMA

The Tánaiste stated that "progress on talks about trade in manufactured goods (NAMA) is proving to be difficult but that what is good in NAMA is good for Irish industrial employment. What is important for us is improving Irish tariff savings on imports and exports, which will be of real benefit to the competitiveness of Irish business. The savings for both manufacturers and consumers which could result for lower tariff costs could inject real gains into the Irish economy and address the issue of inflationary pressures".

Minister for Trade and Commerce, John McGuinness TD, said that "a good deal will also provide additional impetus to the Government's policies to enhance competitiveness and develop business in a range of growing markets. This is critically important given substantial Government expenditure for trade development and, in so doing, developing Ireland as a knowledge-based economy".

Services

The Ministers highlighted the need for a positive result in the area of Internationally Traded Services, particularly financial, computer and other business services. Ireland is the eleventh highest exporter of Services in the world. They confirmed that the Services Signalling Conference, now scheduled for Saturday next, must deliver prospects for real market access for Irish companies and service providers. The Tánaiste described services as being "of ever-greater importance to the Irish economy, as highlighted recently by the ESRI, and any improvements in the global trading environment which enhance access for our Services companies can only be good for Irish firms".

Rules

Ireland has always gained from the effective operation of a well-ordered rules-based world trading system and is anxious to see this continue. "Predictability in global trade and firm rules enforcement under the auspices of the WTO will also support Governments enterprise policies. Certainty is very important for business confidence particularly for small open economies such as Ireland. A positive outcome to this round will add this certainty," Minister McGuinness said.

Development

The Tánaiste restated that "Ireland is committed to the development dimension of the round".

During his participation and to underline the Government's concern, Minister Power had discussed with the WTO and the Group of Least Developed Countries (LDCs) how increased trade and improved market access can provide a real opportunity for LDCs to climb out of poverty and confirmed Ireland's support for a truly development dimension to the round.

Conclusion

The Ministers concluded by describing this a "tough week of negotiations" and emphasised their commitment to securing the best possible outcome for Ireland which will defend and promote Irish interests.

Date Released: 24 July 2008