Trade Policy: Presentation.

I welcome the delegations from the Trade Matters group, a group of development NGOs and the solidarity committee of ICTU to the meeting. Present today are Mr. Colin Roche from Oxfam Ireland, who has been before the committee previously; Ms Maeve Taylor and Conall Ó Caoimh from Comhlámh. The delegation has been invited to address the committee on the development aspects of Ireland's trade policy in the light of the upcoming world trade conference in Cancun in September. Members have been circulated with their position paper entitled, An Agenda for Trade Justice. Following the presentation, we will have an opportunity to have a question and answer session with the delegation.

Before we commence, I must remind the meeting that while members are covered by privilege, others appearing before the committee are not.

Ms Maeve Taylor

I thank the members of the committee for the opportunity to address them. There are three representatives from Trade Matters which is an umbrella group of 12 organisations, including development agencies, development education organisations and trade unions.

I will give a brief introduction and look at some of the human rights aspects in regard to trade. Conall Ó Caoimh from Comhlámh will talk about agriculture as well as the new Singapore issues in regard to the WTO ministerial meeting in Cancun. Mr. Roche will conclude the presentation by talking about trade justice and transparency issues in regard to the WTO.

The organisation Trade Matters has come together because of a common agenda for trade justice and a common concern about coherence between human rights commitments and trade policy issues. We are in contact with networks and organisations in the south in the countries which are worst hit by the negative impacts of international trade policy. Many of the recommendations we are making derive from those dialogues and from issues arising in developing countries.

We were present for the Dáil debate on Friday and because of that I am not sure I need to tell members in as much detail about trade matters to development. Some of the issues we want to emphasise include the fact that, of the 49 poorest countries in the world, trade is worth eight times to those countries what they gain in aid flows. Therefore, trade is something which could be part of developing countries moving towards sustainable development if they were allowed to put in place appropriate policies. In the poorest countries of the world, as compared to the OECD countries where trade generates about 25% of GDP, trade represents 50%. Therefore, it has a huge impact on their development. The WTO is devoted to progressive liberalisation of trade rules. However, the history of economic development and policy making of the industrialised countries shows that the key to growth is policy flexibility not blanket and unbridled liberalisation of trade.

Current trade rules have resulted in the 49 poorest countries being already $600 million per annum worse off as a result of the Uruguay round. Agricultural trade restrictions alone are currently costing $100 billion per annum to those countries. The key point to bear in mind is that no country has developed through unbridled trade liberalisation. Neo-liberal economists argue that trade liberalisation is the way to eradicate poverty and yet there is no economic evidence to bear this out in any countries. The WTO is denying to the poorest countries in the world the right to use the range of economic policy instruments that have been used by the richer countries to develop their own economies. In many cases the WTO is also blocking for the poorest countries in the world the possibility of implementing development agendas and policies that would bring about sustainable development.

In Doha in 2001, the Ministers who met for the ministerial meeting of the World Trade Organisation promised a development round. So far, in spite of that declaration, there has been very little progress as the richer countries such as the EU and the USA persistently block and resist any progress which would actually lead to a meaningful development round or development focus policies. Mr. Roche will talk later about the 133 Committee, which works out the EU positions. Mr. Ó Caoimh will talk about agriculture and how the EU is opposing serious reform and proposing new agreements to make things increasingly difficult for developing countries.

The Cancun meeting is pivotal. It is an opportunity for countries to go back to the declarations that were made in Doha and make them real and meaningful. It is important to clarify Ireland's role in relation to Cancun. It is currently unclear how Ireland has an input into European development policy and what positions it takes. As an organisation which is focused on development and human rights, the key point for us and for organisations in developing countries is that trade agreements must respect human rights, gender, labour and environmental standards which have been signed up to by Ireland and other members of the WTO through a range of human rights instruments under the International Labour Organisation and the UN.

The same countries that are promoting unbridled trade liberalisation through the world trade organisation have signed up to a range of agreements which promote a human rights perspective. In terms of labour rights, the World Bank, the IMF, the UN and the EU, through its human rights and gender policies, all agree that core labour standards and positive measures towards gender equality are prerequisites for poverty eradication. Yet the current trade model advocated by the WTO leads to the undermining of workers' rights. In the drive for competitiveness the poorer countries are under pressure to lower the standards of protection for workers' rights rather than maintaining them. This has an impact on areas such as the export processing zone, in which the majority of workers are young women. There must be coherence between obligations under the WTO and commitments under the ILO.

Most of the member countries of the WTO have signed up to a range of instruments promoting women's human rights and agreeing that positive measures are necessary to bring about gender equality in all countries. Yet trade policies may impede countries by preventing them from choosing their own economic policies and having policy flexibility. Trade policy can block the possibility of implementing those commitments for developing countries. I will now hand over to Mr. Ó Caoimh to talk about agriculture.

Mr. Conall Ó Caoimh

Agriculture plays a very important role in the economies and lives of those in developing countries. We can deduce this from the strength of concern we see even in Ireland about the agricultural sector. Typically, in less developed countries between 70% and 80% of the workforce are engaged in agriculture. This shows the size of the sector and its importance to the development of these countries. There is massive subsidisation by the EU, the USA and other rich countries of their agricultural sectors. For example, the average American cotton farmer will receive subsidies worth 25 times the total income of his competitor in Kenya, and that is only the subsidy part of his income.

Millions of livelihoods are being destroyed by this system. Due to the highly subsidised export of American cotton, the value of earnings from cotton in Kenya is only 5% of what it was 20 years ago. We have drawn attention in the past to European export subsidies. This is particularly relevant at present as the American President, George Bush, recently criticised Europe's policies, saying that we are causing famine in Africa through our policies about GM crops. President Bush would do well to examine the case of America's exports of cotton and other crops, which cause much damage in Africa.

Meanwhile, the French President, JaquesChirac, has proposed a moratorium on agricultural exports to sub-Saharan Africa. This was not announced officially, although last Friday in the Dáil Chamber the Minister indicated for the first time that Ireland had supported that at EU level. It is important to give extra impetus to that proposal, that while the world trade talks are being worked out, Ireland and the EU support this. If we cannot get the USA to act on this the EU should go ahead and ensure that we are not continuing to cause damage in developing countries while the talks are taking place. I am aware that Deputy O'Donnell is also a member of this committee. During her term as Minister of State at the Department of Foreign Affairs with responsibility for overseas development, the Ireland Aid review which she published called for coherence and specifically named the area of agricultural trade and exports in this respect.

The main decision to be made in Cancun is concerned with giving four new areas of power and responsibility to the WTO. The areas sound technical: investment, competition policy, government procurement or contracts and trade facilitation, which is to do with customs and other systems. The EU is the principal proponent of this and senior and junior Ministers at the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment have spoken out in favour of the agenda. If investment rules are to be liberalised or regulated, the WTO is not the organisation to do it. The WTO, with its mandate of progressive liberalisation, is only capable of liberalising. It cannot take into account workers' rights, states' rights or citizens' rights. The UN is the place in which investment rules ought to be considered. Performance requirements - the policy of ensuring that foreign investors act in particular ways such as buying local produce or employing local people at different levels of management - are a legitimate development tool which governments should have available to them.

Similarly, it is good to have transparency in the area of government procurement, but in the context of the WTO the process is not about increasing transparency but about opening up the contracts to foreign investors. We could imagine Irish companies being given government contracts in Tanzania, for example, but it is difficult to imagine Tanzanian companies winning government contracts in Ireland very often. It is not a level playing field and the WTO is not the best organisation to deal with this matter. We can return to the area of competition policy in the question and answer session. Trade facilitation is a very expensive set of measures and to implement this in the context of the WTO, where there are punitive measures available, would be difficult.

The background to all this is that the WTO should negotiate only in those areas in which all of its members can meaningfully participate, particularly in terms of the capacity balance. Under the services section of the trade talks, there was a deadline last March. The European Union made a request of every other World Trade Organisation member, excluding those with which it has a free trade arrangement, but only two countries in sub-Saharan Africa, Kenya and Mali, were in a position to make a request. That demonstrates the complete imbalance in capacity. Those countries were not able to identify their interests and represent them in the technical manner needed. Adding these to an already overloaded WTO agenda would further marginalise developing countries.

At present the World Trade Organisation creates international rules for trade. The process of creating those rules, however, is already determined by the logic of liberalisation. We need to create a set of international trade rules that ensure development, human rights and real gains for people around the world. We must challenge and change the simple project of liberalisation because it is a process in the blind. Time and again we have asked for reviews and assessments of different agreements - the TRIPS agreement, the GATT agreements and others. There is, however, no process of assessment, only a simple process of liberalisation. In the new areas we do not know what the consequences of liberalisation will be. It is a process of faith. We need, above everything else, a process of trade justice, not just a process of free trade.

More than anything else, Ireland needs a clear policy-making process and a transparent trade policy which balances and coheres development policy with other elements of policy. To bring about such a policy, full parliamentary monitoring of Ireland's position in the current trade talks is needed. Trade Matters presented its document to the Oireachtas Committee on Enterprise and Small Business and, as a result of lobbying by our supporters, there was a debate in the Dáil last week. We are grateful that we now have the opportunity to make a presentation to this committee. We hope this is the beginning of a fruitful engagement with the Oireachtas to bring about a coherent trade policy. Following the ministerial meeting in Cancun in September, we hope there will be a Dáil debate to follow it up.

After the experience of developing countries in Doha and Seattle, a multilateral binding code of conduct is needed for all WTO members to ensure the ongoing negotiations, through a parity process, and the ministerial conference in Cancun are pursued in a democratic, transparent and participative manner. Some weeks ago I met the Commissioner for Trade, Pascal Lamy, and he indicated he would support such a multilateral code. I hope the Government will support him and propose this at future European negotiations.

We also recommended to the Minister with responsibility for Ireland's participation in the WTO, Deputy Michael Ahern, that the Government publishes an annual report on the positions it supported at EU and international level, specifically addressing how they cohere with our development commitments, and we hope the committee will support us in that request. We also request written reports to the Dáil on the activities, policy positions and decisions of our representatives at the Article 133 Committee and Irish Government positions at meetings of the Council of Ministers. The Article 133 Committee is the key decision-making body in Europe made up of civil servants from all member states. We also hope that the Trade Matters group will meet again with the committee in the autumn after the Cancun ministerial meeting.

Sitting suspended at 12.25 p.m. and resumed at 12.50 p.m.

I welcome Deputy Jim O'Keeffe, who has joined us. Mr. Roche was finishing his presentation when we suspended for votes in both Houses. Does he wish to add anything to his earlier remarks or summarise his position?

No, I have concluded and we will answer any questions.

Perhaps this is the first appropriate occasion the Sub-Committee on Development Co-Operation of the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs has had to make a comment by way of context. Reference has been made to the statement by President Bush that the European Union is responsible for deaths in Africa. That is an outrageous and scandalous statement in terms of the aid, in gross terms, delivered by the European Union to a world that desperately needs it, which is seven times what the United States spends. On untied development aid, the European Union spends three times what the United States spends. The proportion of income spent on aid in the United States is slightly less than that of Uganda.

The idea that we should transfer genetically modified products to a continent at the behest of the transnational corporations, use countries desperately in need of food as guinea pigs for uncomplete scientific procedures, create an effective monopoly in seeds and do real and unassessed damage to ecological diversity is simply outrageous. I hope many Members of the Dáil and the Seanad will use every opportunity to tell the acting Ambassador - we have not had an ambassador from the United States since God knows when - what we think of that suggestion.

That brings me to the preparations for the Cancun conference, a point I made previously. I have become weary raising these issues. What will be the Irish Government's stance on genetically modified organisms at the Cancun conference? The three speakers drew our attention to some matters on which there must be 90% or 100% agreement, but the reality relates to what has been circulated to us by way of documentation for this sub-committee meeting. There are two documents - the speech made last Friday by the Minister of State for development, Deputy Tom Kitt, whose heart I have no doubt is in the right place, and a paper presented by the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment to the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Enterprise and Small Business. These papers are not reconcilable but for the sake of ease of business I will reduce my comments to straightforward questions.

The paper from the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment is an elaborate document prepared by Forfás, which I referred to last Friday as being based on mass meetings held by IBEC throughout the country to which I do not remember getting an invitation. The reality is that the position taken in that paper on pharmaceuticals is not the same as the position taken by those on the development side. What has been agreed by way of a code of practice? What has been agreed in relation to foreign direct investment? What has been agreed in relation to technology transfer and sharing technology?

When one is in the Dáil or Seanad a long time one can hit a barren passage, and it strikes one how language itself is being abused. I hit one of those when it came to what has happened between the Doha and Cancun conferences on HIV-AIDS. The reality is that, contrary to what many people thought, the Doha conference did nothing for countries without the capacity to produce generic alternatives to patented drugs. It went some way towards dealing with countries that had the capacity to produce at a lower level. The countries without the capacity were left untouched, therefore, and those to whom the concession was made had no right to sell or provide to those countries without the capacity. The briefing paper suggests that the Cancun conference will open with nothing agreed in respect of that but what will have happened in the meantime is extensive lobbying by the pharmaceutical companies to achieve what they did not achieve previously.

We now come to where we were in relation to the presentations. I raised an issue about the notion that we are now playing in the first league because there is a common European position. I am an elected Member of the Dáil and you, Chairman, are a Member of the Seanad. When did we decide on the agenda for the Cancun conference? What discussion did we have on the common European agenda? When did we have an opportunity to ask the question I have just asked? It is not in my name that any Minister of State goes to Cancun and seeks to impose a neo-liberal agenda in relation to trade, irrespective of the consequences.

The hypocrisy of Bush, and I call him that, in relation to the bleeding world, a world that is experiencing death every day, is highlighted by the fact that every year since Uruguay, the continent that lost out was Africa. The current trade distortions are $134 billion, which is approximately 210% of the total aid. The man who wants to tell the European Union that we are guilty of killing people in Africa spent $396.1 billion on his defence budget last year when $28 billion would have provided clean water for every child on the planet; $25 billion would provide free primary education and $80 billion would provide most of the basic necessities.

On the trade issue, I understand the Minister of State, the Chairman's distinguished brother, is just back from Uganda, a country that has reduced its tariffs by 50% but did it want to do that? We now come to the nub of the matter. It was bludgeoned into doing that if it wanted to attract foreign direct investment. The trade regime going into and out of Cancun is not independent of pressure that is put in relation to aid. Incidentally, aid was 30% less in 2000 than it was in 1990. There is no point in us congratulating ourselves, hoping we have a lovely trip and being honoured at meeting everyone else - I am sure the sociability will be grand - when the situation is dire. Circumstances have got worse in terms of aid. The trade is unbelievable.

On the debt side, one of the two countries mentioned was Mali. In the case of Mali, every 1% of GDP deflected from debt repayment to education and health creates the capacity for 11,000 children per day to live. The neo-liberal monster, driven by turbo-capitalism, that has been released on the world is what is responsible for death and destruction and no Texan hick can give me lectures about what is the cause of it. Sadly, I have been speaking for such a long time about death and destruction in Africa, Asia and Latin America that I am sometimes filled with despair. We should not lend ourselves in any way to the notion that we can apply generally the neo-liberal model.

Page 2.3 of the enterprise and trade document states that the European Union is seeking better access for European service providers in foreign markets and to secure a more transparent and predictable environment in these markets. It goes on to state that these EU requests are not designed to undermine the right of governments to regulate to achieve public policy objectives and that they do not seek to dismantle public services. Reference to GATT is made, which, it states, expressly provides that all governments can legitimately regulate economic and uneconomic sectors. If that is translated into reality and if people are allowed to privatise the provision of health, education and other services, the staff that are available will flow into them. In one country after another that I visited, it will not be possible to hire somebody to provide public education. This is as true in Cambodia as it is in many of the countries in Africa. Following the freeing of services, the NGOs will become second areas to which staff will gravitate, where a better salary will be paid than that offered by the state.

This amounts to an attack on the capacity of people to develop their services. The issue centres on what is meant by a public good. Is it water provision, education, electricity, schooling and such like? I spent a great deal of time in preparation for the Cancun summit, but will not attend it. However, I wanted to raise this issue.

The 133 Committee is crucial. The pharmaceutical companies have had access to it while the Oireachtas has not. When are we going to see the different presentations and when will we have access to the committee's deliberations? I would like to know what has been agreed by the committee.

Many African countries are under pressure of losing aid and foreign direct investment, which amounts to 0.4% of GDP. It is 0.2% and falling in sub-Saharan Africa. The countries in the region have been told that unless they accept dumped rice, which is not part of the native diet, they will not be allowed get into rice production on their own, while chicken farming has been forbidden in various countries. At the same time, people bludgeon their way into native markets, which have been stifled. It is outrageous for the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment to suggest in a footnote that at a time when countries are subjected to all of this blackmail, they will be able to regulate in the interests of public policy. They will have no leverage left because of the combination of blackmail on aid, trade and debt. It is time we realised this.

I considered the reports of the United Nations economic commission for Africa and Latin America and compared them with those by the OECD. IBEC and Forfás would be pleased with what the OECD has to say. In one report it said that water would be the next big investment and it urges investment in water and privatisation of the supply. It also suggests that education is the second most lucrative investment in the world. Last year's documents stated that the role of the state in education is to provide only for those who would not be useful. This is the world we are dealing with prior to the Cancun summit. When I hear about the reconciled position, I support some of the views on decoupling expressed by the Minister for Agriculture and Food. Rural Ireland will have to wake up to the implications of maintaining farm families. It was never related to price and support mechanisms, nor about producing artificial food mountains.

The European Union has done some good things. I do not diminish the everything but arms programme and the offer of aid to countries to go to Geneva. In preparing for the Cancun summit, 6,000 meetings will be held in Geneva. I spoke to representatives from some of the African countries who had been assisted in attending six meetings.

Has the green room phenomenon ended? One document says it has, yet it is evident in another. If regional positions are taken, what chance do these countries have? We should attend the Cancun summit with our eyes open and a willingness to open up every part of the process and face some hard decisions. For example, is it because we rely on foreign direct investment that we will never voice criticism of the pharmaceuticals issue or that because we are afraid to deal in a straightforward manner with reform of the CAP that we will not speak on agricultural subsidies and distortion? Is it because we are, somehow or another, part of the discourse that we refuse to accept the fact that there is no equality of discourse in preparing for the Cancun summit, nor was there for anywhere else? That is why those who are deprived of the discourse in the parliaments of the world will have to join with those who are on the streets. It is why I do so, and will continue in that regard.

I was absent from the initial presentation as I was attending the forum on Europe. I appreciate Deputy Higgins's flow of language and ideas. I will resist the temptation to join in the criticism of President Bush.

It is clear from the general viewpoint of development co-operation that Ireland is, I hope, inexorably on the path of increasing aid which will, at long last, enable the country to meet the United Nations target. The record in recent years has been good. However, we have not crossed the bridge in terms of dealing with trade matters. It is clear from the formulation of European Union policies and otherwise that we have been restrictive in our approach. Such an approach can always be justified, but Ireland needs to take a quantum leap on the question of trade matters.

Politics is the art of the possible. I am a realist and while I could allow myself to be carried away by Deputy Higgins's arguments, I wish to put more practical questions to our guests. They do not represent the Government but groups that have a genuine interest in securing realistic improvements. Given what has happened to date, that the Cancun summit is imminent, that Ireland in the main makes an input through EU discussions and while not stepping back from the objectives of the group, is there one realisable objective in respect of which Ireland could make a difference? Is it fair to ask to where they would direct our attention at this stage? Through the committee, and perhaps otherwise, we might try to ensure an objective is realised. It may not be a fair question and I do not want the group to discard other priorities. To what one road would they point us? If they think that is a fair question, I would like a fair answer.

I also thank the delegation for their presentation. Like Deputy O'Keeffe, I missed the opening statements but I do appreciate the presence of this group. It is important for us to hear the concerns and opinions of the NGOs. I pay tribute to Deputy Michael D.Higgins because he is passionate about this issue. Far be it from me to try to repeat some of what he said because he says it, not just today or yesterday, but continuously. He has paid particular attention to this issue and whether we agree or disagree, we must certainly recognise his interest and his contribution.

It is an ongoing process. Although a small nation, we do have certain influences. In his statement at the weekend, which was repeated on "Prime Time" the other night, the Minister for Agriculture and Food, Deputy Walsh, said the effects of cheap imports into the Third World and developing countries were unacceptable and he actually used the word "immoral". That is a significant step forward. At least we are recognising that we cannot continue to operate a contradiction. On the one hand we are putting development aid into these countries, highlighting their needs and expressing concerns, but we must follow through with concrete development and support. Although I acknowledge this is happening, we must continue to highlight and to listen to groups like these because we must recognise there is only so much we can do. At the same time, however, our voices must be heard.

As a new member of the committee, I do find these meetings very interesting to say the least. Perhaps that is an under statement. We do have a role and we try to play that role as best we can. We are committed to the developing world. We are committed to the needs of areas like the Horn of Africa which we have continually highlighted here and we believe we have a role to play there.

I found today's meeting interesting. Armed with the presentation document, we will do what we can in our own small way, individually and collectively, to continue to ensure that the needs and concerns of those countries are to the fore.

On what the delegation said regarding agriculture and the Chirac proposal to introduce a moratorium on export subsidies for the duration of the negotiations, it is true to say that Ireland, France and other like-minded countries have negotiated closely on issues, and particularly on the Fischler proposals to which both the Taoiseach and the Minister for Agriculture and Food referred. Will the delegation give some indication of their views on the Fischler proposals? We are adopting the right approach to those proposals. What are the feelings of the representatives on what we have achieved in the negotiations?

I agree with the views of Mr. Ó Caoimh on the criticism by the United States of the European Union. It is hypocrisy; it is completely misplaced and is totally wrong. I do not know much about GMOs, but I know enough to say that we should be very careful about them. I agree with Deputy Michael D. Higgins that people could be used as guinea pigs if we do not have the full information about GMOs. It is an area of trade to which the committee might return. I would like to get the views of the delegation on that issue and a response to the other questions asked.

I thank the members of the committee for their comments and questions. Quite a number of valuable comments have been made. Deputy Michael D. Higgins, in particular, brought many important issues to the fore regarding the TRIPs Agreement and its impact on access to medicines and on food security.

GMOs did not figure heavily in our submission because of the limitations of our report. The view of OXFAM, which, I think, is shared by us all, is that they do not see GMOs as a solution to poverty or hunger in the south. There are very serious dangers in the private ownership of seeds and ability of people in the south to produce food crops for themselves. There is a very serious issue of food security in the TRIPs Agreement and it should be addressed.

In terms of providing access to medicines, there is also the serious issue of the TRIPs Agreement preventing the availability of drugs across the south. There is one practical suggestion we could make in this regard which we have talked about. A Royal Commission report in the UK late last year looked at the usefulness of intellectual property rights for development. It found there were essentially no pro-development reasons for the TRIPs Agreement. Perhaps we, in Ireland, could look seriously at intellectual property rights and how they impact on development, and within that access to medicines and food security would be two key topics.

On the Forfás report, I spoke earlier of the need for a clear and transparent trade policy which looks at all areas. At present Ireland does not have a clear and transparent trade policy which brings together all the various aspects of trade. The most coherent source is the Forfás report, which states it looks not at development policy but rather at enterprise policy. In that regard, we have mentioned in consultations the pharmaceutical industry in Ireland. This points up the need, from our point of view, to have a coherent trade policy. This would help the development in the coherent Irish trade policy. Where are the concerns of our supporters and our partners in the south being heard in Irish trade policy? As a process issue, it is most important that we have something which tells us where we are as a starting point on trade policy.

To answer Deputy O'Keeffe's question and to address Deputy Wallace's comments on agriculture, this sector is hugely important for the south. We have already spoken about that. There has been a process of reform of CAP at European Union level. We have made a number of recommendations throughout the process. However, at the end of the day we are still left with a massively subsidised agricultural industry in the north. It is a subsidised system which massively benefits the largest producers and we still have €1 million cheques going to individual landowners/farmers in the European Union while at the same time subsidised exports from the European Union are dumped in the south. The changes that have been made in the CAP reform are minimal in terms of the impact it will have on the south. We are hugely disappointed in the CAP reform process in terms of where development issues have been listened to. We are very happy to hear that the Minister, Deputy Walsh, has called the dumping of exports "immoral" and we would have hoped to have heard more prior to the end of negotiations.

Moving forward, in answer to Deputy O'Keeffe's question, there are obviously many issues with huge implications for developing countries which were outlined here and there are others into which, unfortunately, we did not have time to go. One issue we have raised and in which perhaps Ireland can make a difference in the short-term is the Chirac proposal on the moratorium. This arose in the context of the G8 summit earlier this year. Jacques Chirac proposed an African-French summit and an examination of the possibility of the European Union placing a moratorium on the use of export subsidies. A corollary of that was the United States placing a moratorium on the use of its export support mechanisms. However, that did not occur at the G8 summit. We were interested to hear support for the moratorium expressed in the Dáil last week. This is a useful proposal and something that should be undertaken unilaterally by the European Union for the duration of the negotiations.

It would give an important signal to developing countries and to sub-Saharan African countries that we care about the impact of dumping. As the Minister for Agriculture and Food, Deputy Walsh. said, we recognise that it is immoral and that we need to do something about it. Certainly we would welcome the committee's support for moving it forward and requesting the European Union to implement it unilaterally as soon as possible. I am sure my colleagues may have some words to say to follow that up.

Mr. Ó Caoimh

I thank all sub-committee members for their inputs and agree with a number of comments. I wish to focus on one initiative. The fact that the Minister for Agriculture and Food, Deputy Walsh, spoke recently about the immorality of the dumping process opens the way for the Minister of State, Deputy Tom Kitt, to develop within the European Union over the nine weeks that remain between now and Cancun an initiative for unilateral action on the dumping process. This type of action is within the capacity of the Department of Foreign Affairs and, especially given the signals from the Department of Agriculture and Food, it should be within the art of the possible. I hope to see that happen going forward.

Deputy Michael D. Higgins referred to what is happening in the services negotiations and that we are seeking to open up markets. I must point out an inaccuracy in what the Deputy said that, when companies expand into those countries, they may be required to have a local partner. One of the elements of the European position in the services talks is the removal of the requirement for local partners and employment of local people at managerial level. These are the two conditions by which foreign investment might give a development benefit to local economies, and the European Union is seeking that they be removed. In the area——

I was describing the existing situation which would be worsened and the fact that public capacity for delivery would be depleted.

Mr. Ó Caoimh

Our ambassador in Geneva chairs the World Trade Organisation services committee, which is different from the negotiations committee. One of the tasks her committee was supposed to have completed under the Uruguay commitments and before further negotiations would continue was an assessment of the impact of the Uruguay liberalisation of services. This has not happened.

Deputy Jim O'Keeffe asked what could be done. I have referred to initiatives the Minister could take, but the committee is also an actor and, if it were to have a single priority, it would be to stay actively attentive and ensure parliamentary accountability for what Ireland is doing at the World Trade Organisation talks. It could begin within the services area by ensuring our ambassador moves the agenda forward - I am sure her committee has a busy agenda - and ensures that an assessment of the impact is carried out. That is something in which the committee could take a role.

Ms Taylor

I wish to conclude on the issue of coherence and make a point that emphasises the urgency of trade negotiations and being vigilant regarding the interconnection between trade issues and issues that are sometimes perceived as development issues.

Noeleen Heyzer, who is the director of UNIFEM, the United Nations women's development agency, visited Ireland a few weeks ago and made a strong point about the issues of services, HIV and African women. She said that 80% of farmers in Africa are women which means women are hugely responsible for the provision of food and food security at a local level. With the AIDS pandemic, women are also increasingly being drawn into the caring role in the treatment of AIDS. Women are not only being drawn out of the agricultural sector but being put in the front line where cuts in health provision are made under trade liberalisation.

Noeleen Heyzer made the point that the key issue in the treatment of AIDS is water. A daily requirement of women caring for AIDS patients is 24 buckets of water. If and when water is privatised under World Trade Organisation regulations, if women, in addition to having to make decisions about how to obtain and use water, are also making decisions about how to pay for water, it can be seen that it is an issue where the human rights considerations cannot be separated from the necessity to keep in mind the most vulnerable people in the development and trade policy context. It is an urgent issue and we cannot be fatalistic about the inevitability of trade liberalisation. It must be halted and regulated.

I thank all the witnesses for their presentations. They raised a number of pertinent issues and the sub-committee will certainly bring them to the attention of the Minister.

The sub-committee adjourned at 1.30 p.m.sine die.