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Dáil Éireann debate -
Tuesday, 15 Apr 1969

Vol. 239 No. 9

Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Trade with Germany.


asked the Taoiseach the total imports from Germany for the year ended 31st March, 1969; the total exports from Ireland to Germany for the same period; and what action is being taken to rectify the imbalance.

Particulars of trade with the Federal Republic of Germany in the twelve months ended the 31st March, 1969, are not yet available. During the calendar year 1968, imports amounted to £35.9 million and exports totalled £8.1 million.

The principal adverse effect on the value of Irish exports to the Federal Republic of Germany in the past few years has been the sharp reduction in German imports of Irish cattle and beef because of the effects of the European Economic Community import levies. The restoration of our trade in cattle and beef with Germany has been the subject of repeated representations to the German authorities and to the EEC Commission.

In the case of countries with which we have an adverse trade balance the aim is to seek to improve the position by encouraging the expansion of exports.

Trade promotion, as well as the promotion of other foreign earnings, is a priority function of our Embassy in Bonn and the Consulate-General in Hamburg is engaged practically wholetime in economic work, especially trade promotion.

The Deputy is, no doubt, aware that the Government, through Córas Tráchtála, have made a wide range of grants, incentives and services available to exporters and these, of course, apply to exports to Germany; and that, as was recently announced, a programme of new incentives and services aimed at stimulating and assisting a more rapid expansion of exports to markets other than Britain has been introduced by Córas Tráchtála. Under the new programme Córas Tráchtála have increased the staff and are expanding the activities of their office in Frankfurt which has particular responsibility for the promotion of Irish exports to Germany.

While, in the ultimate analysis, it is on the efforts of exporters that our prospects depend, I hope that the additional incentives which the Government are making available will encourage Irish manufacturers to increase their efforts to expand their exports to such countries as Germany.

Due to the fact that we have a £27 million adverse trade balance with Germany will the Taoiseach not agree that our trade promotions schemes plus the efforts by An Córas Tráchtála and the incentives he has mentioned have proved to be a failure? Will he not agree we should have more aggressive young salesmen in our embassies abroad? Would he not consider taking the man from the UN home to send him to Europe to do something there for trade promotion?

That is a separate question.

We cannot overlook the fact that we have a £27 million adverse trade balance with Germany at a time when men and women are losing work at home due to the fact that we are importing industrial goods that could be produced at home. Surely the Taoiseach agrees that our trade promotion efforts have been a failure? This House is entitled to know what we intend to do about it and we cannot continue to have such an adverse balance with Germany, a country with which we have no ties.

It is during the last few years that the adverse trade balance became so large. As the Deputy knows, it is due to the import levy on cattle and beef in Germany. It is only in the last few months that efforts to increase the capacity of An Córas Tráchtála in Germany have been made and it is too early yet to write off these efforts as a failure. On the contrary, the position will improve from now on.

It is only recently that our economic position became so serious and efforts should have been made before this. The position might not have reached such a stage if Córas Tráchtála and other organisations had their eyes open, because they would have seen this deterioration and have done something about it.

Question No. 11. The Deputy has asked four supplementary questions.

Can the Taoiseach tell the House what were the results of the representations made to the German and other EEC authorities?

Not very good—not encouraging at all.