Before we adjourned for lunch I was dealing with the question of the necessity for manufacturing industry to be maintained in a fully competitive way so that it would be enabled to compete with manufactured products from other countries. I referred to the fact that if that competitive edge was not there, all the promotional work undertaken by CTT would be to no avail. The Government recognised the need for our industry to have that competitive edge because in their statement issued from the Government Information Services on 16 June 1983, a statement on the NESC Report No. 67 on an analysis of job losses in Irish manufacturing industry, they said: "The Government's view is that competitiveness in the widest sense is the key prerequisite for the expansion of manufacturing industry." What have the Government done?
They have taken that key prerequisite factor in the costing of manufacturing goods, namely, the cost of energy, and they have made that the highest in Europe and the highest among all our competitors in manufacturing industry. In January of this year the cost of energy to industry was already 25 per cent higher than that pertaining to our competitors. Yet, in the budget in the middle of the year, solely as a result of impositions voluntarily imposed by the Government and the ESB, the cost of energy to manufacturers was increased by a further 10 per cent. There is little point in the Government making a statement pointing out how vital a prerequisite is the competitiveness of our manufacturing industry when, by their own act, they take a very serious step to render it uncompetitive. If that course continues, the money expended on CTT is money wasted.
CTT do a magnificent job but they will be unable to promote our products abroad unless the price is right. The price cannot be right unless the ingredients that go to make up that price, a key factor of which is energy costs, are at least comparable with those of our manufacturing competitors in the EEC and elsewhere.
Earlier today I made reference to the fact that in the past over-reliance has been placed on the multinationals. The Telesis Report indicated there should be a change of emphasis in the manufacturing context to smaller indigenous firms and the Government undertook to accept the report and implement a switch in emphasis to smaller indigenous firms. I wish they would indicate when they propose to do that. It is most important that they do it if we are to make any dent at all in the horror of the unemployment figures we have and those in prospect. The need for Córas Tráchtála to place particular importance on the smaller indigenous firms is vital. The multinationals have their own marketing arrangements. They have their markets readymade and they use the facilities provided for them here — massive grants from the IDA, tax concessions and so on — as a vehicle for their profit expansion and they duly export those massive profits when they earn them.
I want now to turn to another aspect of the work of Córas Tráchtála and I must express some surprise at finding there is no reference to it in the Minister's opening statement. One of the key problems surely that Córas Tráchtála must be faced with in trying to promote goods of Irish manufacture abroad is the wall of protectionism thrown up in Europe and elsewhere against our products. The growth of this development must be very seriously hampering the development of our industry, causing us many thousands of jobs and serious losses in earning resources which we would enjoy were these walls of protection not there.
The extent of the problem was examined in a report of the Council of Europe, Document No. 5052, published on 19 April 1983, an excellent report put together after extensive examination of the situation by teams of experts under the auspices of the Council of Europe Executive in Strasbourg. The report notes that the volume of international trade levelled off in 1981 and went down in 1982. Its resolution noted also that in its view additional non-tariff barriers to trade were largely responsible for this situation and, despite appeals by OECD and GATT, the international trading system is becoming less liberal and more protectionist.
Again, at page 19 of the report, after an exhaustive review of the extent of the protective measures thrown up in the field of international trade, the report came to this remarkable conclusion: in world terms between 51 and 55 per cent of total imports are subject to restrictions. That will give some indication of one key problem facing our exporters and facing the work of Córas Tráchtála. What are these measures that are thrown up? They list some of them at page 20 of the report. They talk about administrative harassment, health regulations, industrial standards, legal obstacles, economic and commercial sanctions, and they go on to say that in a recent survey the GATT secretariat identified more than 600 non-tariff measures.
The Minister did not refer to this problem in his opening statement but Córas Tráchtála published an article on this subject in their magazine "Export Review" in volume 2, No. 2 of June 1983. They pointed out at page five that the momentum towards further trade liberalisation appears to have been dissipated with the conclusion of the prolonged and exhaustive Tokyo round of GATT negotiations, 1973-1983. Their assessment of the extent was that protective action relating to more than one-fifth of world trade manufacturers have been taken since the conclusion of the Tokyo round. They said that, despite the Tokyo agreement, there is increasing resort to non-tariff barriers to provide protection for home industry. They are particularly important in the EEC context where tariff and quantitative restrictions are generally prohibited by the Treaty of Rome. They refer to bureaucratic delays and bottlenecks and customs documentation and give as a simple example the shortlived French requirement that Japanese videos should be processed through the little known customs post of Poitiers. They refer also to the requirement to use indigenous language and packaging as being another favourite ploy.
There are ploys in plenty and they are no joke. They are not funny where our industries are concerned, where our employment is concerned and where our prospects for the future are concerned. They point out that even West Germany is not above giving under-the-counter protection to its home industries particularly through the extensive network of technical standards administered by laboratories controlled by the German industry in question.
Here then is the problem with which Córas Tráchtála are faced in promoting our industries abroad. The reports indicate how widespread this is and it must surely be taking a drastic and very serious toll of our potential to manufacture and export. Where are the indications of our response to that situation? Where is the indication in the Minister's opening statement and Government statements generally of the urgent and vital action that must be taken if we are to have our industry, burdened as it is by over-high energy costs, survive faced with the unfair competition to the extent I have outlined? I have seen statements from time to time that representations are being made at various levels. The Taoiseach and the junior Minister in Foreign Affairs raised it at a conference in, I think, Munich, but there is no indication that there is any let-up in this wall of protection facing our exporters with which Córas Tráchtála has to contend, with which Irish industry has to contend burdened as it is by the weight of excessive energy costs, excessive postal and communications charges. The burden is too great. Is it any wonder our industries are falling by the wayside like skittles. Not a week passes but one, two or three industries fall, factories close, more go on the dole, more prospects are gone, more homes are broken up.
It is time that the Government and CTT indicated to those EEC countries and others who put up these protections that enough is enough, that a halt is now being called, that two can play at that game, that for too long we in this country have been the good boys of Europe in the field of trade, that unless there is some indication of faith on their part and a genuine liberalisation of the movement of goods and free trade we will be left with no choice but to examine ways and means of ensuring some measure of protection for our own weak industries. Let us not under-estimate the purchasing power at home. It is substantial in many fields but in some areas we have no capacity to manufacture goods we urgently need such as paper, for example, although I hope that situation will be remedied before too long.
These are reasons which are contributing to the 200,000 people on the dole queues. That is the task facing Córas Tráchtála. Now is the time for action. Let us bring our industry up to a competitive level as a prerequisite and let us bring our energy charges at least to a state of parity with those of our competitors. When this matter is raised the Government say that reliance is placed on the ESB as a revenue raiser but this is a grave and serious mistake which is counter-productive and does not achieve that object. The effect is to reduce the competitiveness of our manufacturing industry. Some companies are unable to compete and many go to the wall. The additional revenue temporarily raised by the increased cost of energy is immediately lost in redundancy and social welfare payments. The maintaining of the competitive edge of our industry produces wealth through exports as a result of which employment is maintained and tax is collected from the workers and from the companies. The net effect of high energy charges is a loss of revenue, not a gain.
Immediate and urgent action is required to break down the wall of protection against our industries and if these matters are not tackled we will remain at the top of the unemployment league. It can be said that top of unemployment league equals highest energy costs equals protection against us.