Tuesday, 4 October 2011
Dáil Éireann Debate
51. Deputy Seán Ó Fearghaíl asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the extent of trade relations with Turkey; the way trade relations are progressing; his views that the potential membership of Turkey in the EU would be beneficial to Ireland in terms of trade; if he envisages any obstacles to furthering trade relations with Turkey; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27238/11]
Deputy Jan O’Sullivan: Ireland’s trade relations with Turkey are good and levels of trade are increasing. In 2010, Turkey was Ireland’s 22nd largest merchandise trading partner, with the bilateral merchandise trade valued at €685 million. This represented an increase of 8% on 2009 figures. Figures for the first six months of this year show a 16% rise in merchandise trade over the same period last year. The Embassy of Ireland in Ankara plays a very active role in supporting Enterprise Ireland’s work to identify opportunities for the growth of Irish companies in Turkey. EI client companies report a 61% rise in exports to Turkey from 2009 to 2010.
Turkey is a significant economic regional power with a population of 79 million people. As a candidate country, Turkey’s trade with the EU is significant and growing. Its membership of the EU would potentially generate significant gains for Ireland due to the increased size of the Single Market and the trade opportunities for Irish companies which would flow from accession. Obstacles which can hinder the development of trade relations can take the form of both tariff and non-tariff barriers. The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade works closely with the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, which has lead responsibility for trade policy and represents Ireland on a number of EU committees which discuss both tariff and non-tariff barriers in the context of ongoing EU free trade negotiations.
Deputy Seán Ó Fearghaíl: I thank the Minister of State for her positive response. Certainly, trade relations are improving rapidly and we must be pleased with a 16% increase in the current year. However, I have a concern. I regret that the Minister of State, Deputy Lucinda Creighton, is not present as I raised this matter previously when she was present. She is currently hosting on her personal website critical comments about Turkey and its application for accession to the EU. One of her statements is that the Irish people are horrified by the prospect of Turkey’s accession. I do not believe that statement represents the true position of either the Irish Government or the Irish people. While we are all conscious of the need to manage carefully the accession of a country with 79 million people, it is not helpful to the endeavour in which the Tánaiste and the Minister of State are involved to have one of their colleagues hosting this type of very critical comment on the World Wide Web. I ask them to engage with their colleague, who is a person I respect, and ask her to remove a statement that is offensive both to Turkish people living in this country and to people who wish to do business with this country.
Deputy Jan O’Sullivan: The Minister of State, Deputy Creighton, had a family bereavement at the weekend. That is the reason she is not present today. I am aware of the statement she made in April 2010, but she was an Opposition Deputy at the time. The Government’s position is consistent with that of previous Governments, which is that it supports Turkey’s candidacy for EU membership. Progress on this requires that established criteria are met. Progress on its EU membership is quite slow and is likely to take a number of years. It has been stalled over recent months. A number of areas must be addressed, including human rights issues. Ireland’s official position is that it supports accession when and if that becomes appropriate.
Deputy Seán Ó Fearghaíl: My sympathies to the Minister of State, Deputy Creighton. I was not aware of her bereavement. None the less, the point stands, and I again ask the Minister of State, Deputy O’Sullivan, to use her influence. I presume we cannot prevail on the Minister of State, Deputy Creighton, to change her views but I am not sure it is incumbent on her to broadcast them on the World Wide Web. Given that she holds the position of Minister of State with responsibility for European affairs, it is highly inappropriate that such views should be broadcast, especially when they are not in accordance with the view of both the Irish people or the Irish Government.
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