I propose to take Questions Nos. 160 to 167, inclusive, together.
I refer the Deputy to my reply to Questions Nos. 363 to 370, inclusive, by Deputy Paul McGrath of Tuesday, 21 June 2005, a copy of which follows. The Economic Partnership Agreements, EPAs, which are to enter into force by 1 January 2008, are an integral element of the legally-binding Cotonou Agreement between the African, Caribbean and Pacific, ACP, states and the European Union.
The EPAs are intended first and foremost as instruments for development to foster the smooth and gradual integration of ACP states into the world economy, with due regard for their own political choices and their own development priorities, thereby promoting their sustainable development and contributing to poverty eradication. They combine trade and wider development issues in a unified framework, while taking account of the specific economic, social and environmental circumstances of each regional group and its component states.
For instance recent discussions between the European Commission and the Southern African Development Community, SADC, which has many of the features of a customs union, focused on how the least developed SADC member countries would be affected by further trade integration under the EPAs. This overall approach addresses the particular concern of Ireland and other member states that development and poverty reduction should be the principal objectives of the EPAs.
As far as the impacts of liberalisation of trade are concerned, I draw the Deputy's attention to article 37(7) of the Cotonou Agreement which states that the negotiations on the EPAs:
shall take account of the level of development and the socio-economic impact of trade measures on ACP countries, and their capacity to adapt and adjust their economies to the liberalisation process. Negotiations will therefore be as flexible as possible in establishing the duration of a sufficient transitional period, the final product coverage, taking into account sensitive sectors, and the degree of asymmetry in terms of timetable for tariff dismantlement, while remaining in conformity with WTO rules then prevailing.
As trade is a European Community competence, it is the European Commission which conducts the negotiations on the EPAs between the EU and the six regional groupings of ACP states. The Commission provides the Council with regular updates on the progress of the negotiations. In this general regard, I welcome Commissioner Mandelson's statement that he is putting the EPA process under continuing review to ensure that at every stage in the negotiations the development dimension is placed first.
Ireland is actively following the developments in the EPA negotiations. At the General Affairs and External Relations Council in Brussels on 24 May, for instance, I drew attention to the concerns which have been expressed, including by Members of the Houses of the Oireachtas, that the EPAs are not sufficiently development focused. I emphasised that it will be important for the Commission to reassure member states that it is addressing these concerns.
The Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment, has primary responsibility for trade policy. An officer of that Department represents Ireland at meetings of the relevant 133 committee. This committee normally meets once a month at the level of full members. An officer of the Department of Foreign Affairs also attends meetings of the committee on a regular basis. Given the importance for Ireland of trade and trade relations with other countries, including those which are programme countries for Ireland's development co-operation programme, my Department works closely with the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment and other Departments, including the Department of Agriculture and Food, in preparing for meetings of the 133 committee and on questions relating to trade generally, including the EPA negotiations.
All the programme countries in Ireland's bilateral aid programme — Ethiopia, Lesotho, Mozambique, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Timor Leste — are ACP states. In each of these countries, Ireland works in close co-operation with our partner Government, other donors, the private sector and civil society to ensure coherence in our approach across a range of sectors. Among the issues discussed are the impact of EU policies, including EPAs, and the integration of LDCs into the international trading system. This approach will help build the economic infrastructure in the least developed countries which will help employment generation and, ultimately, long-term sustainable development. I do not, however, have the level of detail being sought by Deputy McGrath in relation to employment in particular industries in sub-Saharan Africa.
In common with most other countries in the southern Africa region, South Africa is Mozambique's main foreign investor and strong trade links have developed between the two countries in recent years. It would not be appropriate for me to express a view on which specific industries in Mozambique, or indeed any other third country, could sustain competition from South Africa.