Written Answers - World Trade Negotiations.

Wednesday, 4 July 2007

Dáil Eireann Debate
Vol. 637 No. 6

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  113.  Deputy Michael D. Higgins  Information on Michael D. Higgins  Zoom on Michael D. Higgins   asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment  Information on Micheál Martin  Zoom on Micheál Martin   the position and ongoing difficulties regarding the World Trade Organisation talks, particularly in view of the walkout from talks in Germany in June 2007 of Brazil and India; his views on the action that might be taken in order to make progress on these talks; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18674/07]

  114.  Deputy Charlie O’Connor  Information on Charlie O'Connor  Zoom on Charlie O'Connor   asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment  Information on Micheál Martin  Zoom on Micheál Martin   the situation with regard to the World Trade Organisation talks; the priorities of the Government with regard to same; the measures being taken to advance these priorities; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19277/07]

Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment (Deputy Micheál Martin): Information on Micheál Martin  Zoom on Micheál Martin  I propose to take Questions Nos. 113 and 114 together.

The meeting last month in Potsdam, Germany, of the so-called Group of 4 (the G4) of the USA, the EU (represented by the European Commission), Brazil and India, was the latest in a series of such meetings. Unfortunately, as Deputy Higgins points out, it was not possible at that meeting for the G4 to reach convergence. From the EU’s perspective, the difficulty is that we [1861]have made significant offers, notably in the area of agricultural market access, but have not received offers in non-agricultural market access or services that would be sufficient to balance up a deal. The EU fully appreciates that development is at the heart of this round of negotiations and we do not expect equivalent commitments from the less developed countries. However, we cannot allow a situation where the EU makes concessions in one area without getting some tangible returns for our own traders.

While I am disappointed that the G4 talks were not successful, I am heartened by the fact that all four partners have expressed the wish for the talks to continue.

The position now is that the negotiations are continuing apace at the World Trade Organisation in Geneva. The Director General of the WTO, Pascal Lamy, is committed to achieving an agreement as soon as possible and has called on all the member countries to engage fully. The Chairmen of the various negotiating groups are preparing to issue new papers in the main areas of work, and these may form the basis of a convergence. There is no doubt that the issues involved are both complex and sensitive. Securing convergence between a wide range of partners is clearly a formidable challenge.

For our part, Ireland, as a Member of the EU, will continue to make efforts to build on the substantial work that is already done and to get an agreement at the earliest opportunity. As Deputies will know, the EU negotiates as a single entity in matters of trade and is represented by the Commission. The Commission together with the Council of Ministers develop the EU’s negotiating position. Ireland will continue to take every opportunity at the Council of Ministers and at the various technical working parties to ensure that our interests are reflected as far as possible in the EU’s negotiations with our WTO partners.

Ireland’s position has repeatedly been made clear by the Taoiseach and the responsible Ministers. In summary, Ireland continues to stress that (i) the Commission must respect its negotiating mandate, (ii) there must be total transparency in the negotiating process, and (iii) the overall EU objective must be to secure a balanced outcome to the negotiations, in which market access arrangements do not go beyond what has already been agreed in the recent CAP reform.

As a small open economy, Ireland has much to gain from a well-ordered rules based world trading system. Our priority is to see the process of trade liberalisation continue in a fair and balanced fashion where the vital interests of all countries, and in particular the developing countries, are taken into account. Accordingly, we remain committed to a fair and ambitious outcome that is balanced across all the areas of trade, including non-agricultural market access, further liberalisation in trade in services, and enhanced [1862]trade facilitation and that delivers real benefits to the world’s poorest countries.

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