This legal limitation, for its part, constitutes a serious operational deficiency in our export promotion arrangements. It precludes, in effect, the achievement of optimum export performance by the many domestic service activities in which we are strong and for which excellent export potential is known to exist. It also clearly impedes the quickest possible realisation of our twin national priorities of employment creation and an improvement in our balance of payments situation. Against this background, I would stress that the Bills are both significant and urgent.
Ireland's economic advancement is still firmly rooted in export growth, on as wide a base as possible. It is clear, therefore, that we should, as a key objective, do all that we can to seek an increasing share of markets abroad, not only for merchandise, but also for as great a range of our service activities as we can.
As a practically achievable concept, there is widespread acceptance of the view that there is considerable scope for an increase in exports by our various service activities. Since 1945, but particularly in the last ten to 15 years, there has been an accelerating increase in the growth of, and world trade in, service industries or "invisibles". In 1979, international transactions in invisibles were equivalent to more than one-third of world merchandise trade.
At present, invisibles represent 33 per cent of the United States total trade receipts, while they account for over 30 per cent in Britain and France. In Ireland's case, they comprise only 13 per cent of our total trade receipts. This is an unsatisfactory performance by international standards and, especially at a time of increasing unemployment and strong competition for international investment in manufacturing, we must take all possible steps to encourage increased exporting activity by our services activities.
Nationally, there are significant benefits to be derived from the export development of the services sector. Because of their low capital and import content, the net contribution of service exports to the balance of payments is significantly greater than in the case of most manufactured products.
Exports by service activities have a high value-added and employment content and there is generally a substantial "down stream" spin-off benefit to be derived from services exports leading to subsequent exports of manufactured products.
There are a number of factors which give us, as a nation, unique advantages as an exporter of services. Our lack of a colonial past and our development over 60 years from a mainly agriculture based to an industrialised, mixed economy, has given us an unusally high level of acceptability, particularly among developing countries.
While I set no limits to our overall market potential, our main market regions are, however, likely to be the continent of Africa, the Middle-Eastern oil-based economies and Latin America. In these regions there is a wide interest in the spectrum of services which we have developed, ranging from our structures and systems for public administration, the activities of our State-sponsored sector, to several of our private sector service activities.
For the immediate future, careful market research has shown that our best prospects lie in such activities as infrastructural construction, health and education facilities, organisational and technical consultancy, and training. These areas are perceived by our potential client countries as the ones most relevant to their needs as developing economies.
As a general rule, and particularly in times of economic stringency, it is imperative that the best possible use is made of our scarce Exchequer resources. This is a consideration that we have brought to bear in framing the present Bills.
We must ensure that whatever Exchequer resources are made available to give administrative effect to the new functions, they are carefully husbanded so as to ensure that only those service activities which have most export potential are assisted. At the same time, we must be able to respond quickly and efficiently to the changing requirements of our client countries.
Accordingly, so that both optimisation of export returns and administrative flexibility can be facilitated, each Bill proposes that the Minister for Trade, Commerce and Tourism be empowered to designate, by order, the service activities to be assisted for export purposes.
My Department have given consideration, in consultation with interested parties, to the service activities that should be so designated initially. They will be: agricultural development and processing; construction related services; medical services; training services covering all activities; technical and general consulting services including commercial laboratory services and research and development services; international financial services; computer sortwear and data processing; public administration; and media recording and publishing services.
I am confident that the House will agree that these services will make a valuable contribution to our export growth and, in so doing, to our ongoing economic development. The above list of services, of course, is deliberately related to the service activities which qualify for assistance under the IDA's services programme, thus ensuring a practical operational relationship between the IDA's investment function and the various State supports to develop and improve our international trading capabilities in services.
The House will appreciate, however, that it is not sufficient merely to place enabling legislation of this kind on the Statute Book. The effectiveness of the Bills and their objective of improving the level and scope of our export performance will be realised only if they are backed up by a fully professional and coherent approach in marketing our capabilities. It is for this reason that Córas Tráchtála are being given overall, national, responsibility for the marketing of our export potential in the services area.
The accumulation of their experience in the marketing of goods is such that they are eminently suitable for the task of assisting exporters of services. This is not to gainsay the experience and expertise of organisations such as HEDCO, DEVCO and the associations of architects, engineers and accountants. These organisations have provided, and will continue to provide, very valuable services to their members.
Córas Tráchtála will work closely with all existing service organisations to ensure that:
(i) the best advice is made available;
(ii) the best form of practical assistance is given;
(iii) all possible opportunities are identified — which will be facilitated by CTT's substantial international network — and
(iv) tendering and proposal documents are properly prepared and presented.
With the benefit of their wide international contacts and experience, the organisation will also monitor the overall environment, domestic and international, for factors likely to inhibit Irish exports of services and to promote the removal of constraints where these are identified.
Increasingly, the provision of export credit insurance plays an important role in the achievement by Irish firms of export orders. To ensure that this insurance is made available to the exporters of those services which will be designated by order in the Export Promotion (Amendment) Bill, identical service activities will also be designated initially by order under the Insurance (No. 2) Bill.
Administratively, the new insurance arrangements will form part of the schemes operated by the Insurance Corporation of Ireland acting as my agents. Suitable policies to cover the kind of activities involved are currently being drawn up by my Department in consultation with the Insurance Corporation.
Export credit insurance is now an essential business safeguard, particularly in such growing markets as the Middle East and Africa.
As is the case with the present insurance schemes, the aim of the new insurance arrangements under the Insurance (No. 2) Bill is to assist and encourage Irish exporters to develop existing and new markets and to provide protection for them against non-payment by foreign buyers due to a wide range of potential causes of loss.
The improved export insurance facilities will, I feel, represent a valuable security for exporters of services, particularly under the conditions of intense competition and financial instability which exists in many areas of the world.
I am confident that these Bills will make a valuable contribution to the Irish economy through an expansion of our export base.
On the enactment of this legislation, all necessary steps will be taken, as a matter of urgency, to ensure that the provisions in these Bills are translated into immediate action. It is self-evident that the sooner we harness our full export potential by service activities and maximise their export earnings under a coherent and co-ordinated marketing strategy the quicker will be the benefits felt in the economy and the greater will be the extent of those benefits.
I ask the House to support these Bills.