Léim ar aghaidh chuig an bpríomhábhar

Dáil Éireann díospóireacht -
Thursday, 25 Jul 1996

Vol. 468 No. 4

Written Answers. - Global Trading.

Declan Bree


60 Mr. Bree asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs his views on whether trade between countries is an essential part of modern life and freedom of trade is guaranteed and protected in international law; the steps, if any, Ireland intends to take to protect its sovereignty and freedom to trade, particularly with regard to sections of the Helms-Burton Act recently enacted into law in the United States; if the Government has outlined its objections to the legislation; if it has informed the United States authorities that the legislation is in conflict with international law; the sanctions, if any, Ireland and its EU partners intend to introduce in order to ensure protection against any attempts by the United States to enforce the legislation against Irish and European business people; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16102/96]

As an open, export-oriented economy, Ireland is committed to a secure, open and rulebound global trading system. As a founder member of the World Trade Organisation, we believe that the best forum for the resolution of trade disputes is a multilateral one.

With our partners in the European Union, Ireland has been deeply concerned at sections of the Cuban Liberty and Democratic Solidarity (Liberdad) Act. Provisions of this Act have an extra-territorial effect on non-US companies and individuals. They are inconsistent with basic principles of international law and they restrict legitimate commercial activities.

For these reasons, the European Union voiced its concerns about this Act while it was being debated in Congress, and has continued to take every opportunity to make these concerns known to the US, including at last month's EU-US Summit meeting and in the conclusions of the European Council meeting in Florence.

On 16 July, the General Affairs Council adopted conclusions which reaffirmed the Union's deep concern over the extra-territorial effects of the Helms-Burton Act. The Council, while reaffirming its concern to promote democratic reform in Cuba, recalled the deep concern expressed by the European Council over the extra-territorial effects of the "Cuban Liberty and Democratic Solidarity (Liberdad)" Act adopted by the United States and similar pending legislation regarding Iran and Libya. It noted the widespread international objections to this legislation. It called upon President Clinton to waive the provisions of Title III and expressed serious concern at the measures already taken to implement Title IV of the Act.
The Council identified a range of measures which could be deployed by the EU in response to the damage to the interests of EU companies resulting from implementation of the Act. Among these are the following: a move to a WTO dispute panel; changes in procedure governing entry by representatives of US companies to EU member states; the use-introduction of legislation within the EU to neutralise the extra-territorial effects of the US legislation; the establishment of a watch list of US companies filing actions under Title III action.
Title III of the Act provides that companies deemed to be "trafficking" or engaging in commercial activity in expropriated property from Cuba are subject to suits in US courts by US nationals who hold claims to such property.
The Council instructed that the necessary preparations be made for urgent Community and co-ordinated national action in response to the US legislation.
On 16 July, President Clinton announced his decision to suspend for six months the right to bring action under Title III of the Helms-Burton Act. This decision by President Clinton is a positive step. Nevertheless, the extra-territorial aspects of the legislation still remains in place, as does Title IV of the Helms-Burton Act, which allows restrictions on access to the US to be applied to European businessmen. Work is continuing on the range of measures identified by the Council on 10 July in response to the US legislation.
The European Union and the United States share a common desire to promote democracy and respect for human rights in Cuba. We should work together to achieve these common aims. It is to be hoped that the US will reflect further on the implications of its legislation and that it will work with its partners to protect and promote an open international trading system from which all can benefit.