Tuesday, 29 June 2004
Dáil Eireann Debate
156. Mr. Kenny asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the number and grade of personnel in his Department dealing with Latin America; their role and function; and his views on whether the full potential in trade, manufacturing and investment of the region can be achieved. [19604/04]
Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Cowen): A total of four officers are normally assigned to the Latin America and Caribbean section of the political division of my Department, filling posts at counsellor, first secretary, third secretary and clerical officer level. Its staffing complement was temporarily increased for the duration of the EU Presidency by one additional first secretary-assistant principal officer and will return to its normal level in the near future.
The section’s role and function is to advise the Minister for Foreign Affairs and the Government on developments in Latin America and the Caribbean. It also contributes to the formulation of Irish foreign policy for the region in line with the Department’s strategy statement for 2003-2005. In consultation with my Department’s EU, bilateral economic relations, cultural and development co-operation divisions, the section works to pursue closer bilateral relations with Latin American countries. Through active participation in EU common foreign and security policy meetings it also contributes to the development of EU policy on Latin America.
A first secretary, third secretary and a clerical officer are assigned to the section of the bilateral economic relations division that deals, inter alia, with Latin America. The division has overall responsibility for the enhancement of Ireland’s trade and economic relationships. It was closely involved in preparations for the Taoiseach’s visit to Mexico in January 2003 and the President’s visits to Argentina, Chile and Brazil last March. Those visits were accompanied by trade missions.
Latin America accounts for a relatively small proportion of total Irish trade. On an individual country basis, Mexico ranks first as Ireland’s largest trading partner in the region. Latin America accounts for a relatively small proportion of total Irish trade. Irish exports to Mexico stood at €500 million in 2003, compared with €141 million to Brazil, €42 million to Chile and €24 million to Argentina. Economic prospects for the entire region are improving and may offer new trade and investment opportunities for Irish companies. Improvements in the world economy, together with increased trade growth, should boost Latin America’s economic growth over the medium term. The United Nations has forecast growth in the region at around 4% in 2004, as well as positive growth in the region’s per capita gross domestic product, after six years of decline or stagnation. Ireland has resident embassies in Brasilia, Buenos Aires and Mexico City.
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