asked the Taoiseach the total imports from Italy during the year ended 31st March 1969 or to the nearest available date; the exports to Italy for the same period; and what action is contemplated by the Government to correct the imbalance.
Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Trade with Italy.
Particulars of trade with Italy for the year ended March, 1969, are not yet available. During the year ended the 28th February, 1969, imports from Italy amounted to £8.1 million and exports totalled £1.8 million.
Imports, into Italy and other countries of the European Economic Community, of the main agricultural products are subject to EEC regulations. Since 1966, the import levies on cattle and beef have brought our very valuable export trade in these products with the EEC almost to a complete standstill. Representations in the matter have been made to the EEC Commission and member states of the Community. In the case of dairy products, imports into the EEC from Ireland have ceased. The Community itself has a vast surplus of dairy produce, the disposal of which is affecting world markets generally.
Where we have an adverse trade balance with another country, such as Italy, our aim is 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 Rome, which will continue to make itself available to assist Irish exporters interested in the Italian market. A senior officer of the embassy is engaged full-time on this work.
As the Deputy is aware, the wide range of grants, incentives and services which the Government have made available to exporters, through Córas Tráchtála, has recently been expanded by the introduction of new incentives and services aimed at stimulating and assisting a more rapid development of exports to markets other than Britain. The full range of grants, incentives and services applies to exports to Italy. I might add that Córas Tráchtála propose to carry out market investigations in Italy for selected products later this year.
I hope that the additional incentives which the Government have made available will encourage Irish manufacturers to increase their efforts to expand their exports to such countries as Italy. In the ultimate analysis, it is on the efforts of the exporters that our prospects depend.
Does the Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries, who is replying for the Taoiseach, not agree that the incentives have been a failure and that we now have an adverse trade balance with Germany, France and Italy of almost £40 million? Should something not be done to encourage trade with those countries? During the past year we purchased £6 or £7 million worth of goods from Italy that could have been manufactured at home. I refer in particular to shoes and clothes.
We cannot have a debate on this question.
Seven hundred people have been put out of employment because of this.
That is not true.
Surely the time has come when we must say to these countries: "If you are not prepared to purchase from us, we shall not purchase from you".
The Deputy's assertion that the incentives have failed does not give a clear picture of the position. The Deputy must concede that difficulties brought about by EEC regulations have affected us. We have been endeavouring to do all we can in this direction. On the other hand, may I say to the House and to all people concerned that if every person in the community were as concerned about the adverse balance of payments that we have with some of these countries as the Government are they would not buy these foreign produced goods but would stimulate the sales of our own goods?
We should have a "Buy Irish" campaign.
We have one.
At any rate, we should only purchase from these countries goods to the value of what they purchase from us.
The Deputy will appreciate that despite the individual adverse balances that may exist with these particular countries, the success of our export incentives and of all the services that the Government have provided to assist exports has been shown in the returns of record exports that have been building up year after year.
We have a record adverse trade balance of £40 million with those three countries.