Trade Agreements

Questions (90)

Michael Moynihan

Question:

90. Deputy Michael Moynihan asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation if she or her officials have written to her US counterpart expressing concern regarding changing tariffs on food products from Ireland. [41942/19]

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Written answers (Question to Business)

By way of a brief background, on 6 October 2004 the United States requested consultations, in line with WTO procedures, with the governments of Germany, France, the UK and Spain, and with the European Commission, concerning measures affecting trade in large civil aircraft. The US concern was that Airbus were receiving non-WTO compliant subsidies from these Member States regarding the production of its civilian aircraft and that these subsidies were damaging to a direct competitor, US aircraft manufacturing firm Boeing. In parallel, on 27 June 2005, the EU made its own request to the WTO for consultations citing Boeing’s receipt of non-compliant subsidies from both federal and state level authorities in the US.

On 15 May 2018 the WTO Appellate Body found in favour of the US/Boeing - that Airbus were receiving non-WTO-compliant subsidies from EU Member States. Subsequently, a WTO arbitrator evaluated the claim and reported on 2 October 2019 that the value of countermeasures that the US can impose commensurate with the adverse effects caused by EU subsidies is $7.496 billion. In the parallel Boeing case, the WTO arbitrator’s report is due for finalisation and publication circa Q2 2020.

On the same day as the WTO Arbitrators' Findings were released, the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) published its final list of products to be targeted with new tariffs. The list has 15 sub-sections with Ireland, along with other EU Member States, included in 9 of these sub-sections. The new tariffs were introduced by the US on 18th October 2019 following the receipt of the procedurally- required "authorisation" from the WTO Dispute Settlement Body (DBS) on 14 October 2019.

In relation to impacts, latest CSO data shows that Ireland recorded goods exports to the US of approximately €39.27 billion in 2018. The US is Ireland’s largest goods export market, accounting for 28% of total goods exports in 2018. For the period January to June 2019, Ireland’s total goods trade with the US was recorded as in the region of €22.2 billion. This was an increase of 14% of the same period in 2018.

For those products that fall under the USTR list, Ireland exported approximately €362m worth of goods to the US in 2018, with the principal exports being:

liqueurs and cordials valued at €168.5m,

butter valued at €156.8m and

cheddar cheese valued at €37.3m.

As of 18th October 2019, exports of these products now attract an additional 25% tariff on entry into the US.

My Department continues to engage with industry and colleagues in the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine and our Enterprise Agencies in relation to the implications of these tariffs for Irish business.

Furthermore, as International Trade Policy is a competence of the EU Commission under the EU Treaties, the EU Commission takes the lead on this issue taking into account the views of individual Member States and the collective good of the Union. Therefore, Ireland continues to be engaged with the Commission, both at Ministerial and official levels on these issues. My Department and I continue to engage through the relevant EU fora such as the EU Council of Trade Ministers and the Trade Policy Committee to articulate Ireland’s particular concerns on what is an EU-wide issue. Furthermore, I also had a bilateral meeting with Trade Commissioner-elect Phil Hogan in October where we discussed the WTO Airbus and Boeing cases.

The removal of the additional US tariffs on Irish food products will likely require a negotiated resolution to the both the EU and US aircraft disputes. To this end, the European Commission has made clear that it stands ready to work with the US to negotiate a fair and balanced solution for our respective aircraft industries. I, my Ministerial colleagues and my officials have continuously expressed support for such a negotiated solution and our position remains that the mutual imposition of sanctions will only inflict damage on businesses and citizens on both sides of the Atlantic and harm global trade and the broader aviation industry at a sensitive time.

As recently as this July, the EU shared concrete proposals with the US for a new regime on aircraft subsidies and a way forward on existing compliance obligations on both sides, to avoid any further escalation of tariffs. So far, this has not led to a satisfactory outcome. Nonetheless, Ireland’s preference, as I and my Government colleagues as well as my officials have articulated, along with the EU, is for a negotiated settlement to be reached on these issues and we look forward to EU-US engagement to that end.

The Government has highlighted our concerns in bilateral engagements with US interlocuters in Dublin and Washington, intensively over recent months. The issue of the tariffs was also raised during the US Presidential and Vice-Presidential visits this year. I and my officials, as well as colleagues in the Department of Foreign Affairs & Trade and Agriculture, Food & the Marine, continue in contact with our US counterparts in Dublin and Washington on these issues. In addition to raising this matter with my fellow Trade Ministers in Council, I have also recently written to my counterpart, United States Trade Representative, Ambassador Robert Lighthizer to underline Ireland’s disappointment at the tariffs applied on Irish products. I also stressed the negative effect of tariffs on both our farming communities nationwide and those living and working in border areas already affected by the economic uncertainty of Brexit. Finally, I reiterated Ireland’s support for a negotiated resolution to both the Airbus and Boeing disputes. Ambassador Lighthizer, in his reply to me, did not offer any early relief.

I and my officials, as well as colleagues in the Department of Foreign Affairs & Trade and Agriculture, Food & the Marine, continue to monitor the situation and remain in contact with our US counterparts in Dublin and Washington. We are also actively engaged with the EU Commission as it seeks to negotiate a resolution on these and other trade matters with the US.

Comprehensive Employment Strategy for People with Disabilities

Questions (91)

Margaret Murphy O'Mahony

Question:

91. Deputy Margaret Murphy O'Mahony asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation the role her Department is playing in advancing disability inclusion in entrepreneurial policy. [49707/19]

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Written answers (Question to Business)

SMEs and entrepreneurs are central to our national ambitions for generating broad-based growth and prosperity. I am convinced that to drive increases in living standards into the future, SMEs and entrepreneurship need to be at the heart of our focus on innovation, productivity and growth.

Ireland has a diverse SME ecosystem, of innovation driven enterprises, high-growth and high-technology, family-owned, rural, owner-managers, traditional sectors, and a diverse profile of business owners including those with disabilities.

My overriding ambition is to unleash the potential of SMEs and entrepreneurs in boosting innovation, productivity and economic growth resulting in higher living standards for all our people.

The OECD review of SMEs and Entrepreneurship in Ireland, which I commissioned last year, recognises that there is well-spring of entrepreneurship right across the country. It also recognises that the Local Enterprise Offices have made a marked improvement in the promotion of and supports for entrepreneurs and it is the LEOs that are the first stop shop for anyone thinking of starting a business, including those with disabilities.

I am ambitious for every region and want to achieve a further increase in entrepreneurs starting and scaling businesses in every county and the development of our entrepreneurial hubs and enterprise centres has been a key enabler of increases in recent years.

The 31 Local Enterprise Offices (LEOs), located in the Local Authorities nationwide are the ‘first-stop-shop’ for advice and guidance, financial assistance and other supports for anyone intending to start or grow a business.

The LEOs can offer direct grant aid to any microenterprises (up to 10 employees) in the manufacturing and internationally traded services sector which, over time, have the potential to develop into strong export entities. Subject to certain eligibility criteria, the LEOs can provide financial assistance within three main categories:

- Feasibility Grants (investigating the potential of a business idea)

- Priming Grants (to part-fund a start-up)

- Business Development grants for existing businesses that want to expand.

For Start- ups or expanding businesses, the LEOs may be able to offer ‘soft’ support in the form of training or provide a mentor to work with the business proposer including courses such as the Start Your Own Business programme guides clients through the various aspects of business and business planning and the Mentor Programme which is designed to match up the knowledge, skills, insights and entrepreneurial capability of experienced business practitioners with small business owner/ managers who need practical and strategic one to one advice and guidance.

I will continue to ensure equal opportunities for entrepreneurship across the population and to address gaps in the self-employment and entrepreneurship activity rates of women, youth, those with disabilities and migrants. My agencies will continue to work very closely with the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection and Intreo Offices in every county to ensure those seeking to get back to work or start a business are aware of the range of supports available.

Commercial Rates Impact

Question No. 93 answered with Question No. 57.

Question No. 94 answered with Question No. 83.

Questions (92)

Niamh Smyth

Question:

92. Deputy Niamh Smyth asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation the action she is taking to support businesses concerned regarding the impact of commercial rates on the future of their businesses; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [49708/19]

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Written answers (Question to Business)

As Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation, I am very aware of the serious impacts on businesses and consumers of high costs. It is important that consumers and businesses can obtain services at a reasonable and fair price.

I have no role with regard to the setting of commercial rates. The rates paid by individual rate-payers is a factor of the valuation carried out by the independent Commissioner for Valuation and the Annual Rate of Valuation (ARV), decided by local authority members. The Government has consistently encouraged local authorities to show restraint in terms of ARV increases, in order to support local businesses.

In terms of supports for business funding for my Department in 2020 will be close to €1 billion, a 2% increase on 2019. This will enable continued support for businesses by the Department and enterprise agencies. The Local Enterprise Offices (LEOs) are the first-stop-shop service assisting in delivering business growth and jobs for the small & micro-enterprise sector. The LEOs undertake a number of activities to support enterprise growth and development. Enterprise Ireland is focused on helping export-focused clients across all sectors grow. Brexit will pose particular difficulties for SMEs and a suite of supports, including the Brexit loan scheme and the future growth loan scheme, are already in place.

Question No. 93 answered with Question No. 57.
Question No. 94 answered with Question No. 83.

Joint Labour Committees

Questions (95)

Paul Murphy

Question:

95. Deputy Paul Murphy asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation the reason only two out of seven joint labour committees are functioning and have produced employment regulation orders; and her plans to ensure that other sectors including agriculture, cleaning and so on are represented by joint labour committees. [50379/19]

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Written answers (Question to Business)

Joint Labour Committees (JLCs) are provided for under the Industrial Relations Act 1946 and were reformed by the Industrial Relations (Amendment) Act, 2012.  

JLC’s may be set up by the Labour Court on the application of (i) the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation, or (ii) a trade union, or (iii) any organisation claiming to be representative of the workers or the employers involved.

Section 41A of the Industrial Relations Act 1946 requires the Labour Court to carry out such a review of each Joint Labour Committee at least once every five years.  In 2018 the Labour Court carried out a Review and submitted their Report to me on 20 April 2018 with a number of recommendations which I accepted.

Prior to carrying out their Review the Labour Court publishes a notice in national newspapers advising that they are carrying out a review and inviting written submissions to address considerations to be taken into account by the Court in carrying out the Review. A total of 21 submissions were received by the Court and having considered all of the submissions received, the Court concluded that the experience of the sectors involved since the completion of the last review had been one of harmonious industrial relations.

The Labour Court recommended that 6 of the 8 existing JLCs be retained in their current format, and that the remaining 2 (Catering - Dublin City and Dun Laoghaire and Catering - Excluding Dublin City and Laoghaire) be amalgamated.

The constitution and proceedings of JLCs are set out in the Fifth Schedule to the Industrial Relations Act, 1990 and as JLC’s are independent bodies, I as Minister have no role in their ongoing functions.

Joint Labour Committees

Questions (96)

Joan Collins

Question:

96. Deputy Joan Collins asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation the steps she plans to take to expand the joint labour committees for workers in low-paid industries in view of a Bill to address the issue recently being voted down in Seanad Éireann; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [50362/19]

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Written answers (Question to Business)

Joint Labour Committees (JLCs) are provided for under the Industrial Relations Act 1946 and were reformed by the Industrial Relations (Amendment) Act, 2012.  

JLC’s may be set up by the Labour Court on the application of (i) the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation, or (ii) a trade union, or (iii) any organisation claiming to be representative of the workers or the employers involved.

If an application is submitted to me for the setting up of a JLC, I will examine the merits of the application and due consideration will be given as to whether the JLC will assist in the promotion of harmonious industrial relations and the avoidance of industrial unrest in the sector. If I am satisfied that this is the case I will then make an application to the Labour Court to hold an inquiry.

You may be aware that I recently signed an Order on the 27th November for the establishment of a Joint Labour Committee for the English Language Sector following a request from Mary Mitchell O’Connor, Minister of State for Higher Education. Following that request in June 2019, I asked the Labour Court, under section 36(a) of the Industrial Relations Act 1946, to consider an application to establish a JLC to address all aspects of the working conditions and pay of employees in English language Schools. The Labour Court followed the procedures as set out and recommended that the establishment of such a JLC was appropriate. On 27th of November under section 39 of the Industrial Relations Act 1946, I signed the establishment order.