Business wants balance in WTO talks

24 Jul 2008

Business groups are urging the Government to ensure all sectors of the economy are well represented in the current World Trade Organisation (WTO) talks in Geneva, highlighting the importance of services and ICT in the mix.

IBEC head of trade and international relations, Pat Ivory, said his organisation has consistently supported a balanced WTO outcome, within and across all three major pillars of the negotiations – agriculture, industrial products and services.

“It is critical the Irish government and the EU Commission give high priority to rapidly advancing the negotiations on services trade, where ambition needs to be brought up to the same level as the other pillars,” he said.

“IBEC and its European business partners are pushing not only for the binding of existing levels of services liberalisation, but also for the opening up of new opportunities for these business sectors across the world.”

ICT Ireland, the IBEC group that represents the high-tech sector, is singing from the same hymn sheet.

“The Irish technology sector is critically dependent on an open global market. Europe alone will not support our growing technology sector,” said ICT Ireland director Kathryn Raleigh.

“Exports in the high-tech sector account for more than one-third of all exports and turnover accounts for one-fifth of total turnover in industry and services.

“Our sector needs certainty in international trade rules and a level playing field, where there is a genuine liberalisation of trade involving not only all industrialised countries, but also emerging countries, such as China, India, Brazil and South Africa,” she said.

Mark Fielding, chief executive of ISME, the Irish Small and Medium Enterprises Association said while there was empathy and support for Irish farmers in the current negotiations, there has to be a realisation that their exports represent only 3pc of the Irish total.

“It is essential any agricultural concessions are reciprocated in manufactured goods and services to ensure we get the best deal possible in order to propel the economy forward,” he said.

Meanwhile Chambers Ireland is supportive of the need for transition supports for our agricultural and agri-business sectors. Chief executive, Ian Talbot, said: “Guaranteed access to markets beyond the EU is crucial if we’re to protect ourselves against global economic cycles, grow our dynamic economy via sustainable development underpinned by services and international trade, and assist farmers with their transition and growth in meeting future challenges arising from global food shortages.”

By Sorcha Corcoran