Wednesday, 25 June 1980
Seanad Eireann Debate
Minister of State at the Department of Industry, Commerce and Tourism (Mr. R. Burke): The purpose of this Bill is to make provision for further grants to Córas Tráchtála to enable them to continue the work of promoting, assisting and developing Irish exports.
The amount which could be made available to them out of moneys provided by the Oireachtas when Córas Tráchtála was first set up under the Export Promotions Act, 1959, was limited to £1 million. This statutory limit was raised by subsequent Export Promotions Acts, the most recent being that of 1977 which raised it to £45 million. The Bill under consideration at present proposes to raise the limit to £90 million.
Córas Tráchtála have made a most valuable contribution to the development of Irish exports which, in the period 1959-79, have risen from £130 million to £3,498 million. I am sure that no one in this House will need to be convinced of the excellent return to the Irish economy which moneys made available to Córas Tráchtála have provided. Senators are well aware of the importance of the board's task, the efficiency of their operations and their adaptibility in  meeting the developing and changing needs of our exporters.
As industrial activity accelerated over the years, Córas Tráchtála's operations were extended to provide exporters with the more sophisticated aids and services they needed in changing market conditions, to assist them in opening up new markets and consolidating their position in existing ones. The board's present regime of aids and services is extensive, ranging from information, advice and basic market research to specialist services in the field of market research and from incentive grants for individual exporters visiting overseas markets to the organisation of national stands at international trade fairs. All these services are kept under constant review to ensure that they support adequately the changing needs of our exporters.
As I have already mentioned, total exports during 1979 rose to £3,498 million which represents a value increase of 18.2 per cent over the previous year. Córas Tráchtála are confident that 1980 will feature another solid export performance. The statistics available so far in relation to this year bear out this expectation.
In the period January to end-April 1980 total exports were valued at £1,289.1 million, an increase of 28.2 per cent over the same period in 1979. The main increases came from manufactured goods, excluding food, drink and tobacco—30.2 per cent, food, drink and tobacco, 22.3 per cent, live animals, 38.4 per cent and raw materials and fuels, 31.1 per cent. In this period, exports to the UK amounted to £567.8 million or 44 per cent of the total. After the UK, the continental countries of the EEC bought the largest proportion of Irish exports during the four months concerned—£427.1 million, 33.1 per cent, while North America accounted for £80.6 million, 6.3 per cent, EFTA for £49.9 million, 3.9 per cent, and all other markets for £163.7 million, 12.7 per cent. This reflects the continuance of the gradual change in the geographical distribution of our exports since our accession to the European Economic Community,  resulting in a considerable lessening in our dependence on the UK market—which, in 1974, took 56 per cent of our exports—although, of course, the UK still remains our most important customer.
Export expansion on such a scale in the first four months of the current year augurs well for the future and, in my view, vindicates Córas Tráchtála's confidence in our export performance for 1980. The net result is likely to be a value increase in the year's total exports of about 20 per cent—despite a world recession involving a poorer performance by most of the major industrialised economies than last year.
The overseas office network which Córas Tráchtála maintain is an invaluable source of support to our exporters. They now have 22 overseas offices, in 19 countries and all five Continents. They are particularly alert to the requirements of Irish exporters to the EEC which, in the free trade situation, is, of course, our largest potential market. Through their offices in the EEC member states, Córas Tráchtála keep in close touch with developments, and are well equipped to furnish exporters with expert advice and market intelligence in this vital area for our trade.
The expansion of Córas Tráchtála's export promotion activities over the years has inevitably resulted in increases in the board's rate of expenditure. Payments to the board by way of grant-in-aid up to 31 December 1979 amounted to £37,956,885 which leaves a balance of £7,043,115 unissued from the existing limit of £45 million. This balance is insufficient to meet the board's financial requirements up to the end of the present year in respect of which a sum of £7.98 million will be needed. The present Bill is, therefore, designed to relieve the statutory constraint involved and to make provision for a reasonable period ahead.
The House is, no doubt, already aware of the expansion and improvement in Córas Tráchtála's services for 1980 as set out in their export promotion programme for 1980. It will be appreciated,  however, that the cost to Córas Tráchtála of maintaining existing services and providing new ones is susceptible to the same inflationary pressures as any other costs. In these circumstances, I am sure that Senators will agree that Córas Tráchtála should have adequate funds at their disposal to provide the vital services to our exporters on which the development of our exports depends so much. With this in mind, I confidently recommend the increase—by an additional £45 million—of the statutory limit on the grants which may be allocated to Córas Tráchtála, to enable that organisation to pursue their vital role in the promotion and development of our exports.
Mr. Staunton: This Bill is obviously non-controversial. It relates to the activities of CTT and their need for legislative sanction so that the increased funds which they need from time to time can be agreed by this House and in that there is a consensus and we accept the Bill which the Minister has introduced. He will have our support on it.
There are certain aspects concerning the export position which need to be commented on. I note that the Minister quotes the statistics of exports from this country from the period January to April this year, total exports valued at £1,289 million, an increase of 28.2 per cent over the same period for 1979. There are problems here. The Minister mentions the increase in terms of money value but not in terms of volume. In an age of inflation running at a rate of 20 per cent and Córas Tráchtála in their own report referred to volume increase as well as monetary increase, it is salutary to include the volume increase because the money in itself is not a very realistic barometer of the volume of exports from this country.
There is another flaw in that the Minister in quoting statistics and quoting a percentage—the £1,289 million from January to the end of April, an increase of 28.2 per cent, was helpful to him—did not give the up to date information. The Central Statistics Office  have available to the general public statistics for May of this year. I am not holding the Minister personally accountable—he is being briefed—but I wonder why the Minister's speech does not include May statistics which are alarming. Exports from this country for May run at about £334,500,000. They are alarming because from year to year and month to month there are increases in the value of exports if one is to take any account of inflation, and as an exporting nation that is our lifeline. To compare months in 1979 and 1980 and the increase in export sales, for January this year compared to last year, they were up £71 million; February, up £66 million, March, up £72 million, April was up £76 million but May is only up £17 million. There is an alarming downturn in exports in relative terms in that the export statistics for the month of May at £334 million in money terms show an absolutely static position since February this year. In this age of inflation when exports are vital—and exports imply jobs—this downturn is alarming and note should be taken of it. I regret that the Minister's statistics did not relate to that. The increase from January to the end of April in terms even of money values was 28.2 per cent. If, which would be more realistic in the debate this evening, the figures were taken as from January to May as against last year, there was a drop of about 6 per cent in the increased level. The trend is very unsatisfactory.
I would like to make one other comment about CTT, not necessarily in criticism but to put certain matters into perspective. The fact that CTT are the arm of Government in the export promotion field does not necessarily mean that they can assume responsibility for all the exports from this country. When we talk of the statistics in a debate on CTT there is a tendency to relate credit to them for their performance. Of course we can give them considerable credit for the work which they are doing in that field to which I have been a witness both in this country and outside. They have done a  tremendously valuable job for this country over a large number of years, but at the same time their involvement in exports of live animals, for example, is minimal. In so far as industrial exports are concerned, we have very many sophisticated multi-national manufacturing companies performing in this country at present who already have sales outlets, market analyses and corporate headquarters in various places around the world who use the services available to a minimal extent. However, that is not taking away credit from CTT for the work which they have been doing.
I note that they have been tremendously helpful to the medium and small manufacturers and have been a very useful arm of Government in this country in the work which they have been doing. I do not want to be unduly critical because of the fine work they have been doing, but I find it a little unsatisfactory that when we are discussing the question of funding CTT—and the amount of money involved is fairly substantial—the last published accounts which are available to the House are the accounts for 1978 and we are practically into July 1980. They are not isolated in this and many other semi-State bodies are a little bit slow in arranging publication. The 1978 reports were published around September of last year so on a pro rata basis we have another two or three months to wait, although I gather there is a possibility they may be available at the end of July. It seems to me that, for a year which ended December last, with a bit of a push the reports should be available to the Houses of the Oireachtas and the general public by the end of April. Discussing these events in the absence of even last year's report in the latter days of June in the following year is not very satisfactory.
This staggering downturn in growth is going to have a downstream effect throughout the country. In the foreword to the last CTT report which was published they state that even then—1978 which was a satisfactory year—in relative terms 1978 had volume growth over 1977 of 17.5 per cent but in  1977 it was much higher. For example, the growth rate in volume terms in 1977 over 1976 was about 35 per cent. The 1978 performance at 17.5 per cent in money terms was a proportionate rate of about half in the last published year. These report statistics are fairly alarming. This is hitting very much at what we are all trying to achieve in this country in creating more jobs and getting us out of the present recession and depression. CTT themselves recognise this in their 1978 report when they say that even reflecting on what they considered to be a good year, 1978, they took the view that the growth rate would need to be more than 50 per cent higher in each successive year if the Government's job creation and maintenance aim is to be achieved. We are speaking about this Bill in a period of extreme difficulty in world conditions and in export markets. We are with the Minister on the Bill; we recognise in broad terms the work CTT have been doing and we wish them success in these very difficult times.
Professor Conroy: Córas Tráchtála have been one of our great success stories and in relation to the expenditure upon them, the actual benefits and returns are extremely high. This is very much borne out in the figures which we see here. This very excellent organisation are the envy of many other countries and are, I understand, being copied by quite a few other countries. At times, perhaps, we fail to realise the enormous support which is given to our trading partners, who are also our trading competitors, by their embassies. We are inclined to think in terms of the embassy of the United Kingdom, the embassy of France, the embassies of the various other western European and other nations, in purely political terms and not to realise that a very substantial part of their staff, even a majority, take a trade role over and beyond the normal support given by the proper diplomatic staff of the ambassador and other members.
We in this country are very fortunate in our own diplomatic service, but it is necessarily very limited. Its very small size means that it has to concentrate  basically on political matters. In this respect we are at an enormous disadvantage, which often is not realised. It is excellent that this extremely efficient, small and effective body, Córas Tráchtála, are able to fill this role in a way which quite clearly is getting support on both sides of the House and from industry and the people at large. I am very happy to support them. I have had some personal experiences of their tremendous efficiency and help and it is a real pleasure to see the excellent progress that they are making. There are many comments which one would like to discuss in relation to exports generally but perhaps we will come to those on some other occasion.
Mr. Alexis FitzGerald: I do not know whether the Minister will, at this stage, be able to help me with any answers to these questions. I need not put them in the form of questions so as to embarrass him if he did not have the information available. I have been considering what effect on our export trade to the United Kingdom the strengthened sterling has been having. One reads all about the UK recession and so on, but the purchasing power internationally of sterling has obviously been increasing since we joined the EMS. There are reasons for that which have not much to do with the trading position of the UK. Perhaps at some other time the Minister could tell us what, for example, has been the movement in the proportion of exports to the UK since we joined the EMS. Has there been any sign of a change in the general trend towards an increase in our exports to the continental EEC? It will be interesting to know whether that has been accelerating or what has been happening to it. I do not want to be stinting in my praise of CTT and I join in what everyone else has said about them, but we should always try to find out what the realities are. How much of our increased exports are related to the captive markets of new industries that have been coming on stream? How much of CTT's work is due to that and how much is a consequence of IDA attraction of new industry? The IDA have their own way of selling what they produce. It would be  useful for the formulation of public policy to know these things.
The third point which has occurred to me with regard to, for example, the Institute for Industrial Research and Standards, is that both bodies give services that benefit people who make money. Concentrating on that but having regard to getting our exports up and so on, at certain points it may be possible to begin to charge people for their services. Is there any process in operation in CTT whereby they can collect fees for any of their services? Can they sell their services to people who are getting benefits from them? Public money is in question and I imagine that has been looked at. I think they call it grants-in-aid when they are talking about the public purse but I would not mind hearing that CTT had got a contract whereby they were making £1 million out of telling somebody what to do with his goods.
The fourth question arises out of sheer ignorance. Do CTT concern themselves at all about the export of services as distinct from the export of goods? EEC requirements obviously require the Government to drop the export sales relief in relation to services, but there would not seem to be any EEC requirement preventing CTT from stepping in there to do what they could about making new business for services of every kind. Looking at Senator Conroy I would think immediately of educational services and there are other things of that kind which we could be selling in this beastly world to the world.
Mr. Mulcahy: I would like to make one or two comments. I welcome the Bill and I join with my fellow Senators in praising CTT for the work that they do. I take Senator Staunton's point that it is not CTT who do the exporting, it is the firms. That does not take from the fact that CTT do a very fine job.
I will draw the attention of the House to another measure of how effective our export drive is. We have been capturing a larger share of world trade each year.  Our market share has gone from something like .36 per cent to something over .4 per cent. Those figures are not dead right but they are of that order. Even though it is a small amount it is good to see that our export services are expanding at a rate that means that we are capturing more of the world's trade. At the moment and in the immediate future world trade is going to be very tight. It is still expanding but not at an accelerating rate. If our exports manage to maintain the drive they had now that world trade is tougher, then the performance is all the better.
The Minister and I had a pet scheme that we discussed before he went into office. It was a conviction that what is important is to see more and more Irishmen and Irishwomen as sales executives working abroad pushing Irish products. If we cannot see them doing that then the export effort is intangible in terms of people visible and active. We had the idea that a special project should be promoted to get a group of young people to do specialised training, improve their language capacity and learn more about the typical problems of export marketing. I am not so sure how that has progressed. Maybe the Minister would like to tell us. My own information is that certainly something is happening. I hope that now he is in the seat he will be making things happen in that regard.
My view in relation to the export drive is that we should be more aggressive. The future of the country depends on our export policy. Many people, including Senator Whitaker, have been pointing out time and time again that our economy must be export-led. As we develop an industrial base, wider in terms of the range of products and technology we cover, and deeper in the amount of employment that we have in each part of each sector, our export drive must be more intense and aggressive. When any Minister or politician goes abroad one expects him to go abroad selling hard and to make no apologies about it. Sometimes I hear comments about our Minister for  Foreign Affairs being interested just in commercial matters. Why not? Somebody like President Giscard d'Estaing moves around the Middle East and he comes back with 9 billion dollars of orders and makes no apology for it. An example of being more aggressive is always asking for Irish products. There is no point showing you are very clever and saying, “Well, they would not stock Irish whiskey here”. Ask for it, even if you do not drink it. It means that the barman will say that somebody came in today and he was asking for Irish whiskey, even though it might be some bar in Africa. Ask for the Irish product and be aggressive about it.
I would like to commend also the work of some of the semi-State bodies who are promoting our exports. Senator FitzGerald raised the question about CTT themselves. They effectively export in the sense that they provide specialised training for people from other countries. I am thinking also of Aer Lingus who, with their entrepreneurial effort selling their expertise abroad, are in the export business. The recent report of the National Economic and Social Council, which refers to entrepreneurial activity in the semi-State bodies, indicates that they want to do more of it, but they feel a little bit of constraint in certain ways. I hope that any constraint that they feel will be lifted and they will be able to contribute even more to the export drive.
Finally, a question to the Minister about export credit guarantee systems. I have raised this matter with him before. Some improvement has taken place but we are still not as good in this country as they are in the UK in terms of the availability of these schemes. I know of instances where firms operating in the country who have subsidiaries working in the UK will often work through the subsidiary in the UK in order to make use of the export credit guarantee scheme that is available there. Doing so means they will be pushing a British product rather than Irish products which would be handled from Ireland. The Minister might make a comment on that.  I welcome these extra funds for CTT and I wish the Minister well in his role as seller of Irish products and promoter of Irish products abroad.
Mr. McDonald: I am glad to have the opportunity of welcoming this measure which is very useful, very important and very necessary. In the almost seven years that I was in the European Parliament I had the opportunity of seeing CTT people work extremely hard and efficiently. One met so often small Irish owners or managers of businesses who depended so much on the wide range of facilities and services that our CTT experts were able to give them. They were able to arrange for small business people to meet clients and to have interpreters available, and they gave a very comprehensive service. They certainly have assisted very many small firms to get into the export market where otherwise it would have been extremely difficult for them.
I have held the view for some time that Córas Tráchtála are very much under-financed. I do not for a minute suggest that this is a criticism of CTT themselves. As Senator Mulcahy has said, we need to be more aggressive, and I agree very fully with the view that he has taken. The Paris office is one of the biggest ones but for a long time you could count the number of CTT people in the Federal Republic of Germany which is a huge market very favourably disposed to Irish products. You can count the staff there on the fingers of one hand, if not on one finger. This is not sufficient and is not giving our people a fair crack of the whip. In addition, these people have to mount considerable stands, for instance in the Berlin show which is semi-political inasmuch as you have to fly the flag in the city of Berlin not just as part of the Community but on an east-to-west basis. This is very necessary. I do not know if it could be looked upon as an economic endeavour, nevertheless, it is one of the shop windows that a lot of work, effort and cost goes into every January. The Cologne fair or some similar shows would be much more worth while.
 I have grave fears that our staff have not got the back-up service or the numbers that they need. I would ask the Minister to look at the infrastructures of CTT. I do not wish to sound in any way critical, but at the same time there must be support and it is the only way that we can get out on a strong export drive. Each of the seven mainland EEC countries differs at least slightly from the others, so you would need to be almost tailor-making products for the different markets. We need more expenditure on research and more research facilities. CTT assist in all these ways, but that is not at all sufficient.
I would like to see the Minister himself embark on many more export promotion tours. As a politician who had the opportunity of travelling a lot I have observed that in most other countries, especially in the ones that are not great democracies, politicians enjoy a very high status. Now that we have additional Ministers of State they should be almost full-time on export promotion because they are able to open many doors. Perhaps CTT and the exporters could utilise more politicians. Many of the Members of this House who have international names and who are well known for their expertise in the various fields should be utilised to a greater extent and they should be asked to contribute the time in the interests of conserving jobs and expanding our export drive.
I know that agricultural exports do not touch CTT at all but I have held the view for a considerable time that the processors who can rely on systems such as intervention lack the will to sell. It is a shame that practically all meat processors in this country are putting their maximum allowable amount into intervention. That is the lazy way out. That is the kind of malaise that restricts our exports and it hinders the creation of new jobs. We should look very seriously at that. If the country is going through a difficult or a tough period then all guns should be blazing and we should be making that all-out effort. It is not just a matter of the Government or any particular  sector. We should appeal to people to express their nationalism in a determined sales drive. If they believe in the future of the country, if they believe in making it a better place to live, then let them put their shoulders to the wheel to ensure that we get every possible job out of being able to sell different kinds of products.
Senator Mulcahy made a very important point about asking for Irish products. I was with a number of Irish Members of the European Parliament at a meeting of ACP in Abidjan a few years ago. We were staying in a rather expensive Government hotel which was outside the town and they had a night club there which was quite respectable but the fee was high. The waiter thought of a number when he brought around the drinks. It was £64 or £65 a night bed and breakfast and each drink was about £10. After the first few nights I insisted on Guinness. I have never had a glass of Guinness before or since but on the third night they produced a barrel of Guinness. We had free drinks for the first few nights because we were quite indignant that they did not have it. Eventually they produced it.
The people who seem to have the best export network are Tullamore Dew, owned by Irish Distillers. Of all the Irish products this is the one commodity one could find on five Continents. I compliment them on their tremendous drive. If one firm is able to produce a commodity that can be found in five Continents, more firms should be able to follow that example.
Mr. McDonald: I only advocate the best. There is room for more co-operation between Departments. I have not seen sufficient interaction between the Department of Foreign Affairs and CTT. I do not say there is not co-operation, but there are only a limited number of CTT offices. We should have many more embassies and there should  be a CTT officer in each embassy. In the cities where we do not have a CTT office we should have a CTT consul attached to each embassy.
We are a small nation. We cannot claim to be wealthy but the premier function of our embassies should be 90 per cent sales. It is not sufficient to impose the cost of a flag-flying operation on the taxpayers. Each embassy, even if it is only a listening post, should have a very high percentage of a sales complement and I hope we would have a consul in charge of exports or in charge of sales or, better still, have a CTT man seconded specifically working through the embassy. I welcome the Bill and wish the Minister's efforts continued success.
Mr. McGowan: I would like to join with other Senators in welcoming increased support for CTT. The House should compliment them on the tremendous work they have done consistently with very limited resources. I would like to think this is only the first of many steps in recognising the need to put money into an organisation like CTT. We should recognise that the market place is a very difficult stand these days on the world scene, where CTT are operating. They have to face up to different pressures of the day and, at the same time, maintain respectability. The rules of trading are always fair. Those of us who read reports realise CTT have to contend with many pressures. When we read about bribes and allegations of major amounts of money being contributed to promote sales we realise how difficult it is for an organisation like CTT, with limited resources to operate.
Honour and credit are all the greater for an organisation that had a small beginning and has a tremendous impact on the whole economy. Everybody in rural Ireland should recognise that the work done by CTT is a credit to the nation. It is a pleasure for Members of this House to be associated with increased support for this organisation. We have only to look at our imported goods to see that some of them are being relabelled. All these tactics are unworthy  of the countries which adopt them. These are the type of tactics, pressure and difficulties CTT come up against. Whether they are promoting whiskey, tweed or any other Irish product, they have to sell aggressively, they have to be aware of new markets and they have to spend money to keep in touch. They have done great work and I hope this new legislation will encourage them to expand and that from the fruits of their expansion will accrue tremendous benefit for what is already a very progressive and a very healthy story from the CTT point of view.
Dr. Whitaker: Briefly, I would like to express my support for this Bill. I do so with particular pleasure because it provides an opportunity of praising the excellent work which has been done by Córas Tráchtála over the past 20 years. I was a member of that board for the first six or seven years of its operations, and I could not help but think that even those of my colleagues of that time who were of speculative mind and used to very large figures—they included the late Mr. Joe McGrath and the late Mr. Percy Reynolds—could hardly have brought themselves to believe that we would by now have paid sums approaching £90 million to Córas Tráchtála. They have been efficiently disbursed in that particular direction.
Senator Mulcahy very kindly recalled my constant preaching of the gospel of salvation through exports. Might I add to that that there is a condition of salvation, namely, that we should not only maintain the competitiveness of our goods and services but extend the range of goods and services which are competitive. This depends on two things: on our incomes not rising too fast and on productivity increasing sufficiently.
Another element in my gospel is that world production and trading structures are constantly changing. One of the big changes already underway, and which will be accentuating as we approach the end of the century, is a switch as between the developed world and the developing world in the kinds of commodities that enter effectively into  trade between us. We are in the developed world and will have to be constantly moving up the scale in technology, in design and quality and particularly in the value we add through the production process if we are to keep our place. We will have to be moving since we will be forced to yield ground in consumer orientated products to the less developed countries. We will have to move more and more into sophisticated high technology goods and into capital goods. We ought to keep these things in mind in planning the future development of production and trade.
Minister of State at the Department of Industry, Commerce and Tourism (Mr. R. Burke): I want to express my gratitude to Senators for their warm welcome to this measure. On behalf of the board and staff of CTT I would also like to thank them for the expression of appreciation of the work of CTT over the last number of years. I will be delighted to pass on to the board and the chief executive the expressions of appreciation. I will try to go through the various points raised—please excuse me if they are slightly disjointed.
In regard to the question of volume as well as monetary increases raised by Senator Staunton, I can assure him that the volume increase is also there, as is reflected in last year's figures and in the figures for the year before. He said I had merely referred to the period January to April. I was trying to take a third of a year and give a picture of what happens in a section of the year rather than taking month by month, because in various months you can have pick-up situations, as we had in May. I can assure the Deputy that the figures for January to May are on target for CTT's annual export target of £4,200 million for this year. The actual increase this year so far from January through to May is about 22 per cent.
Mr. R. Burke: Not really. As I said the target in the five months from January to May and including May's figures, has shown an increase of 22 per cent, which is consistent with CTT's forecast for the five-month period. You will have dips, considerable increases and maybe variations from month to month, but over the five-month-period they are on target.
The Senator made another point. CTT are not fully responsible for all our exports. There are other people, not that many, but quite a number are exporting who do not use the services of CTT. He also mentioned multi-nationals, I can assure him that many multi-national organisations operating here are becoming more aware of the services available through CTT. To my own knowledge they are using the services more and more and I am delighted to see this.
CTT in their promotional programme could not be as successful as they are unless our industrialists were producing products of high quality, proper design and standards. Our industrialists, workers and CTT deserve credit for the export performance we have seen for some time past—from £130 million in 1959 to £3,498 million in 1979.
The Senator also made a point about the report which I am informed will be issued in August. Senator Staunton referred to percentage growth and the fact that there had been a decrease year by year. One must look at the base from which one is working. For example, in 1978 exports were £2,700 million, in 1979 they were £3,500 million, in 1980 they were £4,200 million. It is very difficult to keep up high percentages when one is dealing with an ever-increasing base. I agree fully, and I would like to emphasise that CTT and our exporters are facing extremely difficult world conditions.  The fact that they are so successful is a tremendous tribute to CTT and to our exporters generally.
Senator Conroy in his contribution, for which I am very grateful, mentioned co-operation between CTT and our embassies. This was also mentioned by Senator McDonald. I can assure Senators that there is total co-operation between CTT and the embassies. When Deputy O'Kennedy was appointed Minister for Foreign Affairs in July 1977 one of his first tasks was to emphasise that our embassies were not just flag wavers but that they were to be involved in trade. In many areas where we do not have CTT offices our embassies have trade consuls. In some cases the trade consul is a CTT official. For political reasons, the organisation of embassies within Moscow was such that a trade consul was appointed rather than CTT opening an office there. The same happened in Nigeria and Poland.
Senator Mulcahy mentioned the sales executive scheme. This is a pet subject of his and of mine. I am delighted to be able to tell him that the first course for executives described as a European language and export marketing training programme was held in the College of Marketing and Design, Parnell Square. It went on for six months and the first 15 students came out only last Friday. It was an intensive German and French course. Eight weeks were spent studying sales and export documentation, EEC regulations, selection of agents and so on. There were four weeks of in-company training with Irish exporting agents. Then, there was a two-week visit to France to take in on-the-ground experience. Depending on the placement of these people, this course will be continued in future. I am delighted to be able to say it has worked out and I am hoping that it will continue to be successful. Senator Mulcahy and other Senators spoke about an aggressive export effort. If Senators study the export promotion programme of 1980 as published by CTT they will see a full and aggressive programme of activity for 1980. Senator Mulcahy also mentioned our export  credit guarantee scheme and compared it with that of the United Kingdom. Senators will recall that last year I introduced a Bill to assist the building industry in their export efforts. There was considerable criticism from the building industry that the insurance industry were not fully supportive of the building industry's efforts in export work. The Bill was introduced to close that loophole, by giving facilities to the banks in this country to provide the type of guarantee required. That met one of the great complaints being made by our exporters about our export efforts.
As far as the difference between the British ECG scheme and our scheme is concerned, CTT carried out a survey on behalf of the Department to find out exactly what difficulties were being put in the way of our exporters and our export efforts through any lack that there might be in our own credit insurance schemes. The results of that survey showed that few of our exporters felt the need for an expansion up to the ECGD level. I accept the point made that there is considerable selling through UK offices. This unfortunately is one of the problems of the structure of our industry, which is to a large extent multi-nationally owned. They have their marketing and, to a great extent, their research and development based outside Ireland. We are, through the IDA and also with CTT, encouraging greater placing of sales forces operating from Ireland rather from their home parent companies of the multi-nationals. As the years go by, there will be greater marketing from the Irish companies than through the parent organisations.
Senator McDonald mentioned the importance of small industries and the importance their contributions could make to our export efforts. This has been fully recognised by CTT. To get to the small industrialists based around the country this year CTT decided to open three offices—to move away from the central office in Merrion Hall and to open regional offices. Offices will be opened in Cork, Limerick and Sligo this year. CTT want to get out into the field and meet  the small industrialist engaged in his first venture into the export market who might be nervous, or who might feel some reluctance to travel to Dublin because a visit to Merrion Hall might appear to be too impersonal. What we are doing now is that we are getting to the small industrialists in the field—in places like Cork, Limerick and Sligo—and in the future I hope there will be an expansion of that regionalisation.
Senator McDonald also mentioned the fact that there are small staffs in some of the CTT offices around the world. He mentioned in particular Germany and referred to the Berlin Fair. What happens in a fair, such as the Berlin Fair, is that the main work of designing the stand, the construction of the stand and so on, is done in Ireland. It is then transported out to Berlin, or to any other show involved. It is erected there. It is made of Irish materials. It is Irish designed. You do not need a large office staff on the spot to organise it, because it is all done by a very specialised section of CTT in Ireland. I accept the point that if resources were available there could be extra people in the field. However, I can assure the Senator that the effort in Germany in particular has been highly successful from an Irish point of view since we became members of the European Community, and I hope it expands further in the years ahead.
Senator McDonald also mentioned the need for export promotion tours. I can assure him that the Minister for Industry, Commerce and Tourism and I have been very involved in leading export promotion tours throughout the world. I visited various parts of Europe on a number of occasions, Japan twice, Korea, America and Africa. This trade mission concept is one arm of an overall package of promotional work done by CTT, but it is an important arm. It is something that will be continuing in this year. The Minister has already undertaken a number of visits, and there will be further trade missions later in the  autumn and I will have the honour of leading three of them.
Senator McDonald also referred to the grant-in-aid. Even in this year of budgetary constraints in most sections of Government services, the grant-in-aid for CTT was increased this year from £6.09 million to £7.95 million, an increase of about 30 per cent.
Senator McDonald mentioned one particular company and his visit to Abidjan and the fact that he succeeded in securing a supply of a particular product in a night club. Knowing the promotional campaign run by that company on that continent I am surprised that a product like Guinness was not available in a night club of all places, but I am delighted to hear he was successful in securing a barrel for himself.
I am also very grateful to Senator McGowan for the warm welcome he gave the Bill and the points he made. Senator Whitaker referred to the need for exports and an export effort. I can only endorse what he says: two out of every three jobs in manufacturing industry in this country at the moment depend on exports. That gives the House an idea of how important our export drive is. I can assure Senators that everything that can be done to assist CTT, our industrialists and our exporters will be done. I agree with what the Senator said about the change in trading patterns throughout the world and the need for high technology products to be exported from Ireland and Europe generally. In the years ahead some of the older traditional products will be manufactured in what we now refer to as the Third World. This is reflected in the IDA's present programme. They are putting great emphasis on new technologies, the electronics industry and the health care industry. Of new jobs coming into the country and being approved by the IDA for grant assistance, the whole emphasis is on high technology, because that is where the future of this country lies where we, as a Government, are going, where the IDA are going and where CTT are also going.
 Senator FitzGerald referred to the effects of the depreciation of sterling on Irish exporters and exactly what has happened there. Membership of the EMS and the subsequent divergence in value between the Irish pound and sterling presented Irish exporters both with problems and opportunities. The situation now is that all export transations are in foreign exchange, including those in the United Kingdom. For marketing reasons quoting in the currency of foreign customers has a number of attractions both for the customer and the exporter. First, the customer is not faced by a continually fluctuating final price which is directly responsive to exchange rate changes and, secondly, for Irish exporters to the United Kingdom there is a unique advantage arising from the absence of UK foreign exchange controls on their purchases from Irish suppliers. This reinforces the benefit we have enjoyed in the UK market to date of not being considered a foreign supplier.
CTT have discussed with a number of exporting firms and financial institutions the best means of both exploiting export opportunities when faced with currency movements in all markets and ensuring that firms take appropriate steps to protect their interests in all foreign markets. As a consequence of these discussions, CTT brought three services to the attention of exporters and we are using these now—the quotation advice, overseas customer visits to Ireland and advisory services. These are all available now to potential exporters.
In conclusion, I would like to thank Senators for their welcome to this Second Stage, for the interest they have shown in the debate and, once again, to assure them that I will pass on to the board and staff of CTT the warm feeling expressed for their efforts in this House.
|Last Updated: 14/09/2010 12:28:02||Page of 17|