I refer the Deputy to my reply to Priority Question No 1 (33643/13) earlier in this afternoon’s Session. Ireland's open economy needs to have the export of goods and services at the heart of its economic strategy. The excessive growth in the reliance on property in the years up the crisis was not only unsustainable but it undermined Ireland's competitiveness in export markets and caused a steady decline in our export market share. The economic transition which we are now undertaking must be founded solidly on exporting with the innovation and enterprise that is necessary to support it.
Employment in agency supported exporting companies fell by over 46,000 between 2007 and 2010. However in the past two years this has been reversed and 22,000 net additional persons are now at work in those exporting companies. This has been built on strong performances by both Irish owned and foreign owned companies in export markets. The fall in exports recorded in the first quarter has broken with this trend. My Department and Agencies are closely monitoring this situation. It is clear that there has not been a negative impact in employment during that first quarter. A number of factors are at work such as the re-pricing of pharmaceutical products which are coming off patent and a downgrading of demand in many of our key trading partners.
Other sources of data suggest that export growth can be sustained. They underpin the importance of work to build up our position in export markets through initiatives in the areas of trade promotion and innovation. In this context, Enterprise Ireland has established a Potential Exporters Division as a new way of engaging with Irish companies and providing them with mentoring, business advocate support and financial support. A pilot initiative will also be commenced, focusing on enabling companies to research, evaluate and plan market entry strategies in new geographic markets. A total of 15 Ministerial Trade Missions will take place in 2013 to existing and emerging markets.
In addition, Enterprise Ireland’s Overseas Offices will work with indigenous companies to help them realise new market opportunities. We are developing a series of initiatives to assist our manufacturing companies to step up their performance and penetrate new markets.