Written Answers. - Eastern European Markets.

40.

asked the Minister for Industry and Commerce whether his Department has any plans to establish new markets for Irish products in Eastern Europe having regard to recent developments there; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

124.

asked the Minister for Industry and Commerce whether he intends to extend and expand the role of CTT in view of recent changes in administration in Eastern Europe; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

I propose to take Questions Nos. 40 and 124 together.

With its traditionally rigid economic structures and lack of hard currency, Eastern Europe has been a very difficult market for Irish exporters. In 1988 Ireland had a trade deficit of £52 million with the Eastern European countries of Poland, Hungary, USSR, Bulgaria, Romania, East Germany, Czechoslovakia, Albania and Yugoslavia, on a total trade of £193 million.

However, the picture is now changing. The increasing democratisation and economic reforms in Eastern Europe together with the massive aid programmes envisaged will hopefully lay the foundations for economic growth in that region. I am most anxious that Ireland will play a significant role in such growth.

I have asked officials of my Department to prepare the groundwork for an early meeting with the relevant semi-State organisations and private sector representative bodies with a view to advising them of the evolving opportunities in Eastern Europe for producers of Irish goods and services. While it is clear that much remains to be undertaken in the countries concerned on both a political and economic level, I am convinced that given Ireland's historical situation in the political architecture of Europe, we are now in a better position than ever to contribute significantly to the future economic development of the region.

In addition, a major East-West economic conference is planned for Bonn next spring under the aegis of the Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe. It is my intention that Ireland will have a strong business and governmental presence at that conference to demonstrate our commitment to East European reform.

CTT currently services Eastern Europe through its offices in Dublin and Moscow and its trade consultants in Warsaw, Prague and Budapest. While CTT's operational presence in Eastern Europe is now being kept under special review in the light of developments in that market, there are no plans at present to expand the role of the organisation.