Other Questions

Startup Gathering

Seán Kyne

Question:

6. Deputy Seán Kyne asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation if he will report on the Startup Gathering 2015, which took place last month; if he has analysed the events and continuously monitored the impact, which was hoped to include the creation of at least 2,500 new jobs within the next 12 months; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41743/15]

Was there any analysis of the Startup Gathering, which took place in five cities, including Galway, last month, and will there be continuous monitoring of its impact on job creation and the target of 2,500 jobs?

The Action Plan for Jobs 2015 outlined an action in respect of a national week of events promoting entrepreneurship and showcasing Ireland’s start-up sector to entrepreneurs from all over the globe, including the Irish diaspora, with the message "Start, Scale, Succeed from Ireland." The initiative that was put in place as a result was the Startup Gathering. It featured more than 400 business events, held over five days, making it one of the biggest start-up events in the world in 2015.

Five cities, Dublin, Cork, Waterford, Limerick and Galway, acted as the hubs for the Startup Gathering, and there were also associated regional events in a total of 22 counties, including a programme of events in the north east. The aims of the Startup Gathering were to promote entrepreneurship and help identify entrepreneurial talent at an early stage across the country; to help develop world class regional start-up hubs around the existing strengths in each region to accelerate the growth of start-ups and scale-ups in Ireland; and to raise the international profile of the start-up sector in each region of Ireland to global entrepreneurs, investors and research and development teams. The Startup Gathering was led by the not-for-profit organisation Startup Ireland. It was sponsored by the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation and by Bank of Ireland.

Initial reaction to the Startup Gathering has been positive in terms of number of events and participants. However, given the scale and extent of the week, it is necessary to conduct a comprehensive evaluation of all aspects of the initiative. The Startup Gathering was but one element of work on entrepreneurship detailed in the Action Plan for Jobs 2015. This work has seen Irish performance in the area of entrepreneurship improve substantially in the past year, as has been recognised in two international indicators released in the last couple of weeks. The 2015 Small Business Act Fact Sheet for Ireland, which was published last week by the European Commission, shows that Ireland has one of the friendliest environments for small and medium-sized enterprises, SMEs, in the EU; and in the Global Entrepreneurship Index, also released earlier this month, Ireland moved from 17th to 12th place among 132 countries and from 12th to seventh place among 40 European countries, which puts Ireland's global entrepreneurship ranking ahead of such notables as Israel, the Netherlands and Finland and just one place behind Singapore. The report states that Ireland’s biggest opportunities for improvement are in the areas of entrepreneurship opportunity recognition and reducing risk aversion.

A Startup Gathering exit review report is being prepared and is due to be sent to the Department in the coming weeks. The report will include an analysis of the core objectives and key performance indicators, a survey of start-ups, and an overview of the various events, including marketing, advertising, branding and so on. The Department, Bank of Ireland and Startup Ireland will be meeting in early December on the issue and the national steering group that I chair will then meet in advance of finalisation of the report. Work on the entrepreneurship area will continue in 2016, when we will continue to put in place actions to help improve our performance.

I thank the Minister of State for his reply. I spoke at the event in Galway on 5 October and would like to acknowledge the work of Eoin Costello, the chief executive of Startup Ireland, the Galway city co-ordinator, John Breslin, Bank of Ireland, which was a key sponsor, Enterprise Ireland, EI, and the local enterprise office under Breda Fox. The meeting was very impressive. There was an array of people from the business and higher education sectors and the wider community of the Galway area. I welcome also the initiatives in respect of the jobs action plan for the west, including the specific measures for micro-enterprise in conjunction with EI, the LEOs and Údarás na Gaeltachta. I commend the Minister of State and the Department on the work they have done for start-ups. The Minister of State mentioned the 2016 action plan. What specific measures will be rolled out in that in respect of start-ups, or will they flow from the analysis of the events this year?

We are working to finalise the elements that will inform part of the package for the action plan for jobs 2016. While we are not in a position to discuss those here today, there will be a very clear suite of proposals, many of them emanating from changes introduced in the budget this year to help the enterprise sector, but also to build on the publication of the national entrepreneurship strategy last year. It is our ambition to increase the number of start-ups by 25%, which would represent 3,000 more start-ups per annum, and to increase the survival rate in the first five years by 25%, as well as to improve the capacity of start-ups to grow in scale by 25%. We constantly look for ways in which we can continue to improve the models across the country to bring coherence to the supports that start-ups enjoy. There has been reference to that area in the regional Action Plan for Jobs, which is the right way to go about building up our enterprise ecosystem on the ground across the country - by responding to regional needs and working with the private and public sectors. We are ambitious for start-ups, and that is enshrined in our Enterprise 2025 strategy, the Government's national policy statement on entrepreneurship in Ireland, and the Action Plan for Jobs provisions, which will be published in January for 2016 and will be very ambitious.

Start-up companies have created up to two thirds of the jobs created in the past five years - that is, around 90,000 jobs - so it is a very important sector. The Minister of State must be familiar with the PorterShed initiative in Galway; he may have visited it. It is a space for people setting up companies to work together. There are several other such initiatives, especially in the large urban areas. Does the Minister of State think it would be a good idea to consider incentivising these types of incubation space for start-ups in the large towns? Would it be possible to develop something within the action plan in 2016 or any other initiatives in the Department? This could include the large towns in my area, An Cheathrú Rua, Clifden and Oughterard, because the entrepreneurial concentration may have been in the urban areas and we need to spread it out to the large towns as well.

I agree with Deputy Kyne that the start-up sector has been the unsung hero of our economic recovery. There has been a record number of new company registrations over the past couple of years, which is very encouraging for those of us interested in creating and helping start-ups. Coming from a constituency that includes Ireland's two largest towns, I agree that we have to focus on improving the ecosystem in major regional towns. We have two funding calls out at the moment: a €5 million fund for a community enterprise initiative and a €5 million LEO fund to try to encourage LEOs to collaborate on opportunities that will focus on the existing strengths and try to build capacity in those areas. We also have a considerable fund available, and EI has advertised for expressions of interest, for the development of big ideas in areas where private industry and the public sector can prove they are collaborating on clustering and so on. That initiative will have a huge impact on our towns, because start-ups are so important for the economic vibrancy of the regions.

Question No. 7 replied to with Written Answers.

Export Controls

Clare Daly

Question:

8. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the number of the 680 dual-use licences issued in 2014 that were for commercial purposes. [41423/15]

The Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation grants export licences to goods that are on the EU common military list. The Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation has justified several of those licences on the grounds of their dual use - that is, they can be used for military or civilian purposes. What checks does the Department have in place and how does it know the goods are for commercial use? What scrutiny is there of the end use applications? Is he happy that many exports have been sent to Israel, Saudi Arabia and other countries?

As the Deputy notes, my Department issued 680 individual dual-use licences during 2014. Dual-use items are controlled pursuant to Council Regulation (EC) No. 428/2009, which set up a community regime for the control of exports, transfer, brokering and transit of dual-use items. Of these 680 licences, 660 were issued for commercial purposes. Twenty were issued in respect of exports to entities involved in the manufacture, repair or sale of military equipment. Of these 20 licences, eight were issued in respect of entities involved in the manufacture of military equipment; two were issued in respect of components that could potentially be incorporated into military equipment; and the other six were issued for the export of IT equipment. Eight licences were issued to mixed end-users. Mixed end-users are involved in the manufacture of both civilian and military products. Of those eight licences, two were issued in respect of components that could potentially be incorporated into military equipment. The other six licences were issued for the export of IT equipment. Two licences were issued in respect of trade associations for entities involved in the manufacture of military equipment. Both of these licences were issued for the export of IT equipment. Two licences were issued to entities involved in the repair of military equipment. Both of these licences were issued for the export of IT equipment.

The difficulty that the Minister of State has not addressed is how his Department knows the products will be put to commercial rather than military use. There are no such questions on the forms; in fact, the Department asks for the form to be filled out in layman's terms to a maximum of 250 characters. It does not address the issue that arose in Britain of front companies setting themselves up as end users of dual-use items. What checking is done by the Department in evaluating the applications? Let us face it - we do not really have top-notch intelligence and we know of examples from Britain of exports to companies in Syria that were clearly front companies, even though the applications seemed worthy.

When exporting to certain countries from Ireland, an end-use certificate is required for dual-use items, which is much more strict than usual. Syria is on the list of these countries, yet Saudi Arabia and Israel are not. How could the Minister of State possibly explain the different criteria? They suggest there is no problem whatsoever in exporting to Israel or Saudi Arabia.

To give the Deputy a bit of background, the key consideration in dealing with all export licence applications is to establish whether there are concerns with either the end user or the proposed end use. This process may include consultation with other controlled export authorities both within and outside the EU. Through these consultations, my Department has access to a wide range of information on proposed end users. This consultation process is a fundamental aspect of making a determination on the granting of a licence.

My Department consults with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade on all military licence applications and on all sensitive dual-use export licence applications. That Department is able to draw on a wide range of resources when considering an export licence application. When assessing export licence applications, my Department's main focus is on ensuring as far as possible that the item to be exported will be used by the stated end user for the stated end use and will not be used for any illicit purposes.

Council Regulation (EC) No. 428/2009, as I mentioned earlier, sets out the considerations that must be taken into account when deciding whether to grant a dual-use export licence. The regulation provides that we take into account considerations such as any sanctions in force, any foreign policy or security concerns, any concerns about the proposed end use, or a risk of diversion. I can provide the relevant extract from the regulation to the Deputy if she wishes.

The problem is the definition of a sensitive application and how we can tell in terms of dual-use goods. To look at one thing on the list, shaped charges can be used to produce warheads but also for quarrying, breaking ice and so on. They are, however, extensively used in missile production - armour-piercing and anti-tank missiles and so on - including in the missile used to shoot down the Russian helicopter that went to collect the pilot when the plane was shot down by the Turkish authorities. How do we know part of that missile did not transit through Ireland? What checks and balances are in place for export licences on the munitions that travel on a regular basis on civilian and military aircraft through Shannon Airport? Is the Minister of State's Department involved in that?

Is it not a problem that countries that we know to be funding ISIS, such as Saudi Arabia, are not on the list for definite scrutiny, while Syria is? We know that huge volumes of exports go there and to Israel, for that matter, a key destabilizer of the Middle East region. The scrutiny the Minister of State says the Department is applying excludes the biggest offenders in the region. That is something that really needs to be looked at.

If it is any help to the Deputy, there is also the Council common position, which sets out the eight criteria under which we make those judgments. I will send that on to the Deputy as part of her answer so that she can analyse it and we can have a further debate on it. Our analysis is informed by an EU common ground position. We adhere to all the criteria, which I think would cover all the concerns the Deputy has. I will pass that information on to the Deputy, as there is not time to go through it all now.

Regional Development Initiatives

Denis Naughten

Question:

9. Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the steps he is taking to support enterprise development in the midland and western regions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41425/15]

I welcome the publication of the jobs action plans for the midlands and the west, which focus on our strengths in those regions. It is important that these plans do not just mean investment for Galway city and Castlebar. While I welcome the fact that I see my own fingerprints on some of the proposals in the western plan, the frustrating thing is that the investment that has taken place over the past few years has been very much focused on Galway city. For every 29 jobs created in Galway city, we have seen just two.

I welcome the Deputy's support for the process. One of the things we have lacked over the years is a genuine attempt to have bottom-up regional development which embraces the stakeholders in the region and gets them involved in a set of objectives for the region and actions that can transform it. As the Deputy knows, since the start of the Action Plan for Jobs we have seen a net increase of 135,800 people at work. That is well in excess of the target we set. Every region is experiencing jobs growth and, interestingly, the midlands region has been one of the star performers in terms of the pace of growth, although it probably suffered particularly badly in the crash.

The action plans for the midlands and the west launched over the last few months contain, as the Deputy says, a series of practical actions developed in collaboration with the regional stakeholders to support enterprise growth. I would point out, as I did to Deputy Calleary, that 90% of the extra jobs in the regions have come from Irish-owned companies. Any reasonable debate about regional development has to focus on developing the ingenuity and capacity of those firms to grow. Nonetheless, IDA projects are important. As I said to Deputy Calleary, we have set a target of increasing them. We will have an advanced facility in Athlone, as Deputy Naughten knows.

To give examples of some of the actions, there is a skills forum to look at the skills mix; there will be an initiative to develop a marketing proposition around high-value manufacturing, which is a cluster spread well throughout the region; we are looking at a midlands manufacturing technology campus, which I think has a good spread; we are examining the capacity for development of the various tourism spines; and we are looking at the medical devices sector, which is thankfully located not just around the city. The plan is looking at a range of actions, and it also involves a competitive call that allows others to come forward with initiatives that have not been outlined at this point.

I thank the Minister and do not dispute anything he has said. The regional plans do bring a new focus to what we are actually good at. May I ask specifically about the status of the midlands plan in respect of the skills forum? As the Minister knows, young people will be filling out their CAO forms in a few weeks. What progress has been made since this was launched last June?

The Minister will be aware that we are set to lose another 35 jobs in Carrick-on-Shannon at the MBNA site. We have the staff and facilities there to facilitate the expansion of a financial services company tomorrow morning if required. We have 45,000 sq ft of walk-in office space now becoming available in Roscommon town. We have 60,000 sq ft at the St. Brigid's complex in Ballinasloe, which could be retrofitted into offices with four broadband cables on either side. In view of the pressure on office accommodation in Dublin, can we target some foreign direct investment to those sites?

There will be a six-monthly review. I am attending the first six-monthly review, not of the midlands but of the south east, where we will be sitting down with the stakeholders. It is a broad base so it is enterprise as well as public bodies. We are starting that process of reviews. It will be a progressive element. It is an evolving process, so new ideas can be included and we will soon have the competitive calls which will trigger new initiatives. They are under assessment at the moment.

The IDA has set a target of increasing projects won by 40%, and that has meant examining its existing property offering wherever it is available, promoting it more effectively and also examining where it needs to enhance its offering in order to act as a magnet. That has been the thinking behind the setting aside of a significant budget for property enhancement. I am absolutely confident that with a stronger regional management arrangement in each of the regions, the IDA will now be actively promoting the available sites the Deputy mentioned.

The Minister is correct when he points out that 90% of the growth is coming from indigenous local employers. Does he not agree that we need to support existing employers and those who want to set up or expand their business in their local areas? As he rightly points out, we are going to face challenges in many parts of the country in bringing in foreign direct investment, FDI. There is a discrepancy. For example, for every 29 jobs created in Galway city we are getting two in my constituency, Roscommon-Galway. In light of that, would it be possible to try to front-load and make additional funding available to the local enterprise offices, LEOs, in the likes of Roscommon and for businesses in east Galway where we will struggle to get FDI but where we can support local businesses? That fund runs out in both our counties by the middle of the year, which means we cannot expand and grow these enterprises in the second half of the year.

In respect of Irish-owned business, most of the effort and 70% of the budget I have goes into supporting Irish-owned business, and we have tried to do new things. There have been major improvements in access to finance and various instruments. There has also been a major expansion of Lean, innovation and other initiatives that can help companies to up their game, such as new models to help people to recruit, and so on. We have a competitive call out for LEOs, so it is based on the quality of the proposals that come in, but we are not allocating money automatically. We committed to this and we said at the outset that part of this process would be competitive calls to encourage more collaboration and more innovation. The LEO is to become a centre of innovation for SMEs. We are following that and having a competitive call so the best projects will win. That is the right way to go. Resources are constrained, so I cannot allocate special moneys to anything, but we are using the money we have in as creative a way as we can.

Economic Competitiveness

Peadar Tóibín

Question:

10. Deputy Peadar Tóibín asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation his plans to improve the competitiveness of the economy. [41753/15]

Many local enterprise offices are shockingly understaffed at the moment and FÁS is also gobbling up most of their resources with regard to start-your-own-business courses and so on.

Maybe the Deputy would stick to his own question for a minute.

The World Economic Forum global competitiveness report has stated that economies that are more competitive do better with regard to growth and are more resilient in terms of downturns. We have a shockingly low base of indigenous enterprise firms that export and those firms are still suffering due to costs on which the Government has major influence, namely, energy costs, legal costs, etc. What is the Government doing to resolve that?

We have allocated extra staff to the LEOs, including new graduates, so we are attending to that and will review staffing levels.

I agree with the Deputy that competitiveness is crucial to our economic progress and the Deputy should acknowledge that exports from Irish-owned firms have been the star performers in our recovery. Last year, Irish-owned exporters created more jobs than the IDA. Most of the debate focuses on the IDA, but Irish-owned exporting companies created more jobs in 2014 than foreign-owned companies, and it is important to remember that.

We have focused very much on competitiveness which has been a key feature of the Action Plan for Jobs. We lost a great deal of competitiveness during the crash. That saw a declining export market share in the economy, which undermined our competitiveness. Since then, we have undertaken a range of measures to improve competitiveness, including many structural reforms. We have sought to make work pay, to improve access to finance for business, to streamline regulatory processes and to reduce the administrative burdens by establishing new rules on incorporation. We have improved our domestic cost base. Unit wage cost is estimated to have improved by 20% relative to our competitors. The exporting sectors of our economy are creating jobs at record levels and we have doubled trade missions to support that. We have improved our competitive tax regime, particularly in respect of innovation and start-ups. We have invested significantly in skill areas where there have been gaps, especially in ICT.

As a result of these efforts, we have seen significant improvement in our international ranking for competitiveness, but as I said to Deputy Calleary, we certainly are not complacent about this. We always need to be attentive to that. We have the National Competitiveness Council, which now reports to the Cabinet sub-committee on a number of occasions per year to underline the areas where we can make improvements. We seek to act on those reports and incorporate their recommendations, where we can, into our action plan.

The number of Irish exporting firms is dwarfed by the number of Danish or Austrian exporting firms. We have a very low base with regard to this sector of the economy. The problem I have with competitiveness is that every time I mention it in this Chamber, the Government talks labour costs and taxation. They are not the areas in which to look for competitiveness. Even the chief executive of ISME, Mark Fielding, has commented that energy, insurance, local charges and legal fees are all higher in this State than in our European counterparts. This is the major difficulty local businesses will say they have with regard to staying in business. There is a range of talent cost in this State on which the Government is not focusing. We are talking about these particular costs for five years. The export plans of this State will never come to fruition until the Government deals with them properly.

The export plan set by the previous Government for 2014 was exceeded dramatically by Irish-owned enterprise. It is not true that Irish businesses are underperforming in the markets; they are exceeding expectations. We have enjoyed double-digit export growth from our Irish-owned companies in the past three years. That is exceptional performance. It is driven by some very innovative sectors, including food and software development, FinTech and so on. We can stand and compete side by side with any companies, from Denmark or anywhere else in the world. I know that from the trade missions. We are winning in sectors where we have a competitive edge. The Deputy is right that there are costs and they cover all ranges, including labour, transport, property and so on. The public utilities have undergone cost restructuring and have sought to reduce the cost in the utilities. The Minister took measures in the budget to reduce transport costs, particularly in respect of freight.

I mentioned talent. The IMD World Talent Report 2015 shows that Ireland has dropped ten places in its ranking since 2014, the largest drop of any developed country. It states that there are problems with infrastructural development and investment, worthwhile apprenticeships and internships, and that the labour force is contracting in certain sectors. In this sector, we are 50th out of 61 participating countries. The quarterly national household survey states that about 300 people in the age group of 20 to 34 are leaving the country every week, which is quite shocking. If one adds the problems we have with utility costs and not developing our talent properly to the problems with upward-only rent reviews, the commercial price for property and the housing catastrophe, one sees these elements reducing competitiveness and the opportunity for indigenous businesses to export and grow.

The Government adopted a national talent drive last year. The consequence of this is that the Minister of State, Deputy English, has introduced 25 new apprenticeships which will have 1,500 people enrolled each year in entirely new areas of apprenticeship as well as significant growth in the traditional apprenticeship areas. We have doubled the output in ICT. When we started, we were supplying only about 45% of the ICT needed domestically, but we are now pushing that up to 75%. We have undertaken the regional skills evaluation, and as Deputy Naughten acknowledges, if we can get the skill mix right in our regions and get a magnet there for skill attraction, we can do much better there. We are good for skill availability. The IDA has many rankings that show that skill availability in many of these critical sectors is better in Ireland than in many other locations. These are tight areas and there are difficulties.

I certainly will look at the talent issue. A lot of that is around costs and investment, and everyone knows that in recent years there has been curtailment of the capacity to invest. In terms of the competitiveness which concerns the Deputy, we have boxed clever and sought to ensure that we have invested in skills that are close to those enterprises that the Deputy is concerned about.

Question No.11 replied to with Written Answers.

Trade Agreements

Mick Wallace

Question:

12. Deputy Mick Wallace asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation if he has read the recently released Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement, and if he has any concerns about the reported roll-back on progress on contentious areas such as patent rules and the investor state resolution system, particularly given the ongoing negotiations on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership and the assurances from both sides in the negotiations that this agreement is in the best interests of the public; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41750/15]

For almost 30 years now, we have seen countries from the developed world lower tax rates at the top and rip up a lot of regulations - basically, it is state-sanctioned mass corporate welfare. The incomes of the bottom 90% have stood still while productivity levels have soared, and the top 10% reap an ever-increasing slice of the pie. The Trans-Pacific Partnership, TTP, and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, TTIP, are legal mechanisms designed to ensure that the profits of corporations are ring-fenced against any developments in the battle for workers' rights, climate justice and socially positive progress. The Minister must have concerns about the TTIP.

We have had this debate previously in the House.

Free trade agreements are an effort to make it easier to trade across borders. In the course of the recent recovery, half of the extra jobs have come from exporting. We depend on access to markets as a key aspect of our ability to bring companies overseas and to grow. I have visited Japan, Canada and the United States with companies seeking to penetrate these markets and there are real difficulties in those markets, particularly around public procurement rules that keep Irish businesses out. The purpose of these agreements is to create opportunities for companies to trade, and I welcome them. These agreements also enshrine - the Deputy keeps asking about this - provisions to ensure there will be no dilution of labour, environment and health standards. That was in the mandate that we signed. These are protected in the agreements.

The Deputy's original question was about the TTP. I have not been party to the specifics of the agreement between the United States and Japan. I am sure there are, as in every trade agreement, those who criticise some of the provisions as not going far enough and others who say they go too far. There are always sectors which have defensive interests. If a sector enjoys protection, it will not want to see those rules changed to allow in new competition and those within it will give out, while others will say the provisions are welcome.

I am not in a position to comment on an agreement between Japan, Malaysia, the United States and others. It would be unfair of the Deputy to ask me to comment on those. In terms of what we are doing at European level, we are at pains to ensure that the agreements are negotiated transparently and that there is protection of the public interest, but also that there are significant opportunities for new business and new jobs to be created on both sides.

The problem is that there is a serious lack of transparency and there is a serious concern that the public interest is not to the forefront of the ambitions of the agreements. Only in August last, the European Commissioner for Trade, Dr. Cecilia Malmström, promised another bout of TTIP transparency, stating that even more documents from the negotiations would be made available, but when the promise was put to the test a few days later and the corporate transparency body Corporate Europe Observatory received documents on exchanges between the tobacco lobby and the Brussels institution concerning TTIP and the EU-Japan trade talks, it turned out most of the documents had been redacted. It was described as an exercise in black humour.

Professor Joseph Stiglitz, a renowned economist, has stated:

The reality is that this is an agreement to manage its members' trade and investment relations – and to do so on behalf of each country's most powerful business lobbies. Make no mistake: It is evident from the main outstanding issues, over which negotiators are still haggling, that the TPP is not about "free" trade.

I would have to respect Professor Stiglitz, because I sat in his classes at some stage, but I must disagree with him on this issue. For a small trading economy like ours, if we can get the barriers down to conduct trade in ICT products for public procurement contracts in the United States, that is good business. It means a lot of smart companies that have solutions to problems can do business in the United States, Canada or Japan, the latter of which has traditionally been a very closed economy. Since the Korean agreement, there has been a trebling of trade between Europe and South Korea. Real opportunities have been opened up and new jobs have emerged. I have not heard anyone giving out that the agreement with Korea has resulted in any dilution of the protections that the Deputy is concerned about.

In terms of transparency, the Commissioner, Dr. Cecilia Malmström, has been extraordinarily open. After the negotiation sessions, all the documents are made available. There is stakeholder engagement with those who are representative of trade unions, etc., around the documents so that they can give their view. Obviously, some things were redacted because, where there are negotiations going on, as the Deputy will be aware from his business experience, one does not publish the detail of offers on a tariff or whether it is three versus two. Those are matters on which there is a balance to be struck across a range of sectors, and some elements will only be seen towards the end when they are finalised.

I am aware that there are critics of the agreements. The Deputy only reads the comments of critics. He does not read any of the general commentary about what this is about or what it is trying to achieve. He discounts every protection that the Commissioner seeks to put in as being inadequate. I would have to say that the Deputy is coming to this with a fairly closed mind most of the time.

I refute that comment. I even read what the Minister says on this matter. How can he say that I have a closed mind on the issue?

The TTP is a forerunner of the TTIP. It is interesting that Mr. Lori Wallach of Public Citizen's Global Trade Watch has pointed out some of the roll-backs on the TPP, stating, with regard to access to affordable medicines, that the TPP's rules on patents for both developing countries and the United States would roll back initial reforms and make medicines more expensive in pretty dramatic ways. He adds that the investor state dispute resolution system is actually expanded so that more types of law can be attacked, and many more companies will be able to attack the laws of all countries party to the trade deal. In Europe alone, only a fraction of US companies are able to avail of the investor state dispute mechanism. It is worrying that if we sign the TTIP, 47,000 US-owned companies in Europe will be able to use the investor state dispute mechanism in order to challenge state regulation.

The Constitution has offered investors far more protection than has ever been envisaged by the ISDS mechanism. We have very strong protections for companies and no one has complained that those protections have been abused.

As I outlined in an earlier reply, the ISDS mechanism that has been put in place by Europe has been dramatically narrowed compared to the versions in some of the older investment agreements, which the Deputy rightly criticises. The Deputy needs to read the new provisions, which are much narrower. One must show demonstrable wrongful discrimination against a company in order to use this as a basis for taking a case. There will be an appeal mechanism under the agreements. Those who will hear the cases are persons who are fit to be appointed as judges, and the EU will be involved in their appointment. The procedures will be transparent and new rules are being put in place. All of those protections are being brought in to deal with legitimate concerns that the system was not adequate in the past. The Deputy needs to evaluate these protections rather than continuing to repeat what was stated four years ago about some other agreement in some other place. This is about these agreements, and whether we are putting in the correct protections and whether they are in the public interest, and if the Deputy assesses them in a fair-minded way, he will see that they are.

Written Answers follow Adjournment.