Work of the Bilateral Trade Promotion Unit
With effect from June 2011 certain functions relating to Trade Promotion were transferred from this Department to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. These include, specifically, responsibility for the operation of the Export Trade Council, implementation of the Strategy for Trade, Tourism and Investment and the management of five Joint Economic Commissions (formal bilateral intergovernmental fora which deal with trade and economic links).
Promotion of Trade Missions
Each year the Unit coordinates a considerable number of Ministerial-led overseas Trade Missions (responsibility now shared between the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and this Department). These involve an extensive range of meetings for participant Irish companies (client companies of Enterprise Ireland) with the aim of developing contacts and/or finalising contracts/joint ventures with partner companies in those countries and also developing an awareness of Ireland as a supplier of world-class goods and services. In addition high-level meetings with Ministers and officials in the other country are organised. Details of some recent Missions are as follows:-
In the course of his visit to the West Coast of the USA for St. Patrick’s Day 2012 events, Minister Richard Bruton officiated at a range of trade events (and also investment promotion activities). His visit was centred in San Francisco and Silicon Valley, which is home to about 50 Enterprise Ireland client companies.
In early March 2012 Minister for State Sean Sherlock led a group of 30 Irish companies, mainly from the software sector, to Austin, Texas, to take part in the 19th Annual SxSW Interactive Festival, which is the world’s premier interactive, film and music festival. The event hosts over 30,000 visitors and is regarded as the premier US event to showcase emerging technologies.
Minister of State John Perry led a group of companies to Finland and Sweden in March 2012; combined with St. Patrick’s Day activities and also political meetings in those countries. The visit supported the work of Enterprise Ireland and also of other state agencies Bord Bia, IDA Ireland and Tourism Ireland.
Also in March 2012, An Taoiseach Enda Kenny led a high profile Mission to China and was accompanied by Minister Richard Bruton and 90 Irish companies. In addition to the main trade and investment programme in Shanghai and Beijing, Minister Bruton officiated at events in the cities of Hong Kong and Shenzhen. Political meetings were arranged with Chinese leaders including Vice President Xi Jinping and Premier Wen Jiabao and several significant Memoranda of Understanding were signed. Other state bodies taking part included Tourism Ireland, NTMA, the Central Bank and the Department of Finance.
Commenting on the Mission to China, Minister Bruton said;
“China is central to our Asian trade strategy and after a week visiting some of the main cities it is clear what an opportunity, and a challenge, this presents to Ireland Inc. As more than 90% of trade growth in the coming years will be outside of the EU, it makes complete sense to focus on the rapidly growing Chinese market and its 1.3bn population. Significant opportunities for Irish business exist in areas like ICT and life-sciences as well as the tourism, farming & food sectors while the education, banking and legal sectors opened up valuable new channels of training and access to this important market. There is also undoubted potential to increase the volume and quality of foreign investment into Ireland from large Chinese companies, many of whom I met on my visit this week”.
In June 2012, 36 companies travelled with Minister Richard Bruton on a three day Trade Mission to France. Minister Bruton’s schedule during the visit included a series of meetings across the Brittany and Paris regions with leading French companies and their Irish partners and also events to promote Irish exports in the key sectors of agri-technologies, cleantech, engineering and construction.
Other Trade Promotion Work
The Unit also coordinates incoming visits by various Ministers, officials and delegations from a range of countries on an on-going basis and it works with foreign embassies located in Dublin on developing Trade. For example the Unit was closely involved in the arrangements for the successful visit of Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping in February 2012 and the signing of two agreements, with the Chinese authorities, dealing with Trade in Services and Investment, during that visit.
The Unit works closely with the development agency, Enterprise Ireland, which is the Government body responsible for the development and growth of Irish - owned enterprises in world markets. Information on other recent trade promotion events undertaken by that Agency, and on future events can be accessed through the Enterprise Ireland’s Press Release page.
Key Trade Statistics
The Unit maintains statistical data on Irish trade on a month-by-month basis and analyses trends in Ireland’s import/export performance in both merchandise and services trade. A summary of Ireland’s trade performance from 2004 to Q3 2012 can be accessed at the following link:
This table is updated quarterly by the Unit and reflects the on-going revisions by the Central Statistics Office (CSO). This document also includes information on top merchandise and services export categories, destination countries, GDP information and a list of the key Euro exchange rates trends over recent years.
In addition the Unit also maintains a range of country-specific trade data.
The slight fall in Irish merchandise exports in 2008 and 2009 was reversed in 2010 and this progress continued in 2011, with a 1.70% increase being recorded - to ¤91.228bn. The Merchandise Trade Surplus reached ¤42.9bn
Ireland’s Top 5 Merchandise Export Destinations in 2011 were:
- USA ¤21.6 billion;
- United Kingdom ¤14.4 billion;
- Belgium ¤13.2 billion;
- Germany ¤6.4 billion;
- France ¤5 billion.
For more detailed statistics on merchandise trade visit the Central Statistics Office’s website at: http://cso.ie/en/statistics/externaltrade/.
In 2011, Services Exports increased by 9.6% to a record high of ¤81.4bn.
In 2011 Ireland’s Top Services Export Destinations were:
- United Kingdom ¤15.0 billion
- Germany ¤ 7.7 billion
- USA ¤5.8 billion
- France ¤4.8 billion
- Italy ¤4.7 billion
- Other detailed information is available on the Central Statistics Office’s website at: http://cso.ie/en/index.html.
Other research information relating to trade issues
The website of Forfás, Ireland’s National Economic Development Authority and Advisory Board, which comes under the aegis of this Department, includes reports on competitiveness and industrial policy issues which are accessible at http://www.forfas.ie/publication/search.jsp, some of which include trade policy aspects.
Strategy for Trade, Tourism and Investment
In response to the Smart Economy Framework, this Department developed a Strategy for Trade, Tourism and Investment that was launched in October 2010. This was the first time that all of the relevant agencies and Departments involved in promoting overseas trade, tourism and investment came together with an integrated approach to achieving a set of agreed priorities and targets for both existing and new high growth potential markets. The targets agreed by these agencies – Enterprise Ireland, IDA Ireland, Bord Bia, Tourism Ireland and Science Foundation Ireland- are being implemented through a suite of actions driven by the Export Trade Council. Responsibility for this Strategy and the Council has transferred to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. The Council is chaired by the Tanaiste, Minister Eamon Gilmore TD and Minister Richard Bruton TD is a member.
The Strategy will build on the success of the final phase of this Department’s Asia Strategy 1999 – 2009. That Asia Strategy had set a range of sectoral targets to expand Ireland’s political, trade and economic links with the main Asian economies. Achievements on the key targets were very impressive, with a significant expansion of trade and other links between Ireland and the key Asian markets.
Export Credit Insurance
Pre – 1998 Scheme
The Export Credit Insurance Scheme, which was administered by this Department for many years, was suspended in 1998. Some export credit debt owing to the State remained outstanding for a number of years but, more recently, recoupment efforts have been ongoing and are continuing with considerable success. A total of ¤7.5m has been recovered since 2004.
Possible reintroduction of State-supported Export Credit Insurance
Since the State withdrew from the provision of Export Credit Insurance in 1998, exporters have been able to avail of such insurance on the open market, as commercial operators made such cover easily available. However, in early 2009, insurers began reducing or withdrawing cover and this led to some market failure in this sector.
In response to this problem for business, this Unit arranged that a reviewof the export credit insurance market be carried out by Forfas. This report concluded that there would be significant problems associated with a State scheme as sought. It was therefore decided to undertake a full-scale forensic examination of the Credit Insurance market in Ireland and international consultants KPMG were commissioned to undertake this work. Their report found that the introduction of a State-backed Short-term ‘Top –up’ scheme would be expensive and of very limited impact, and that a negligible number of jobs would be supported by such an initiative. In addition, it was established that there were indications that this market was showing signs of recovery and that the insurance companies should therefore begin to provide better levels of cover. Accordingly, based on the overwhelming weight of evidence in the KPMG report, the Government decided in November 2009, that a State-supported scheme of short-term export credit insurance should not be introduced.
More recently, the availability of export credit insurance on the commercial market has continued to improve, with new entrants to the market and new products being provided.
OECD Anti-Bribery Convention
The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) initiated a Convention on Combating Bribery of Foreign Officials in 1997.
This Convention is aimed at reducing corruption by encouraging sanctions against bribery in international business transactions, carried out by companies based in Convention Member Countries. This Unit has been involved in Ireland’s awareness raising obligations with the Irish development agencies and with Irish trade and professional organisations that interact with Irish companies operating abroad.
Details are set out in the brochure produced by this Unit:
Further information on the OECD Convention and of the wider Irish Government involvement in this process, is explained on www.anticorruption.ie.
OECD Initiative for Multinational Enterprises
The Unit represents Ireland at the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) regarding the implementation of the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises. These Guidelines, which are voluntary, comprise recommendations addressed by Governments to multinational enterprises operating in countries that adhere to their provisions and provide voluntary principles and standards for responsible business conduct in a range of relevant areas. The Unit also acts as National Contact Point (see details below) for the promotion of these Guidelines.
Further information on related issues is available in the brochure OECD Investment Committee: Promoting Investment for Growth and Sustainable Development Worldwide (PDF, 416KB). As a follow-up to the Guidelines, the Investment Committee has developed a report entitled The OECD Risk Awareness Tool for Multinational Enterprises in Weak Governance Zones which aims to help companies that invest in countries where governments are unwilling or unable to assume their responsibilities.
Countries adhering to the OECD Guidelines
A. OECD members
Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Chile, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Korea, Luxembourg, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, United Kingdom, United States.
B. Non-OECD members
Argentina, Brazil, Egypt, Latvia, Lithuania, Morocco, Peru and Romania.
Irish NCP contact
Mr Gerard Monks. E mail: email@example.com
Last modified: 22/01/2013