That Dáil Éireann approves the terms of the Agreement between the Government of Ireland and the Government of the Russian Federation concerning International Road Transport, copies of which were laid before the Dáil on 7th October, 1994.
I am pleased to move this motion in this House. The provisions of the international road transport agreement between Ireland and the Russian Federation are an important element of trade between the two countries. In broad terms the agreement establishes the conditions under which Irish international hauliers can operate into, out of and in transit through Russia. Likewise it sets the conditions for Russian hauliers who wish to operate into Ireland.
Trade between Ireland and the Russian Federation continues to grow and has significant potential for further growth as the Russian Federation makes steady progress towards a market based economy. Irish exports to Russia totalled almost £60 million in 1993 and reached £24.0 million in the first two months of 1994 alone. Irish exports from Russia were £25.7 million in 1993.
Revenue and Consultancy has been very satisfactory and many Irish firms and organisations have successfully won contracts in areas such as power, generation, training, agricultural development, transport, aviation, software systems and financial and banking services. The value of contracts won by Irish firms to date exceed 17 million ECU.
Irish exports to Russia in 1994, which continue to be dominated by food and food products, are likely to significantly exceed the value of 1993 exports. Last year saw a noticeable increase in exports of Irish clothing worth £10.4 million and computer equipment worth £8.2 million to Russia, and the indications are that exports in these areas will continue to grow this year. Irish imports from Russia continue to be dominated by raw materials.
Aer Rianta is the biggest Irish investor in the Russian Federation with six joint ventures revolving around its particular expertise with duty free shops. Aer Rianta's operations include duty free shops in Moscow, St. Petersburg and Vyborg on the Russian-Finnish border and retail shops and pubs in Moscow. I am glad that among the joint ventures being undertaken by Irish companies in Russia there is a transport-warehousing-distribution company operated by one of our most prominent international hauliers.
Naturally this increase in trade results in an increased need for freight movements. The agreement concerning international road transport has been negotiated to facilitate such freight transport. Since the agreement was initialled in February 1994 some 33 Russian permits were issued by officials of our Department to Irish hauliers wishing to carry loads directly from Ireland into Moscow. Each journey is a major undertaking. Two routes are followed by Irish hauliers, the first being over land via Poland and Belorussia into Moscow and the second is via ferry from Northern Germany into Finland into Russia through Vyborg, St. Petersburg and on to Moscow. Irish international hauliers find it worth while to undertake those journeys with sensitive computer systems, certain foodstuffs and beef.
A most worth while provision of the agreement is the elimination of a road tax previously demanded by the Russian authorities from Irish hauliers. This road tax was of the order of US $750 per journey and was a significant extra cost on the consignor.
As indicated earlier the main thrust of this agreement is the facilitating of transport operations between the two countries. To that end this agreement provides for the following. Regular transportation of passengers by coach to or through either country by transport operators of the other will be authorised by mutual agreement, with details of routes and schedules exchanged. Permits, to be exchanged by the contracting administration, will be required for non-regular passenger transportation between the two countries. A permit will be required for the carriage of goods by road for hire or reward between the two countries and in transit across either country. A carrier of one country may perform transport operations between the second country and a third country provided any relevant agreements between the second and third country allows such operations. Permits will be issued by the competent authority of one country on behalf of the competent authority of the other country. Certain transport operations will be exempt from the requirement to hold a permit. A carrier of one country will not be allowed pick up goods at a point in the other country and set them down elsewhere in that country, cabotage is prohibited.
There will be a reciprocal exemption from taxes and duties connected with the issue of permits and from vehicle taxes and duties on fuel contained in the standard fuel tanks of a vehicle. Carriers and drivers of either country must, while in the other country, comply with the laws and regulations in force in that country. Penalties may be imposed on transport operators who infringe provisions of the agreement and each party will assist the other in effecting such penalties. Vehicles from one country will respect any limitations on weights and dimensions or restrictions on routes used which may be imposed by the authorities of the other country.
The agreement also contains a protocal which lays down detailed rules for the implementation of this bilateral agreement. I commend this motion to the House.