Trade tariffs must go, says Forfás

27 Feb 2003

The removal of a number of trade barriers imposed by the World Trade Organisation is essential if Ireland wishes to grow employment and attract the next generation of technology industries, a new report from Forfás recommends.

The new report, ‘World Trade Organisation Negotiating Objectives for Irish Enterprise Policy’, identifies WTO trade liberalisation as a key factor behind economic transformation over the past four decades. But more, it says, needs to be done in terms of liberalising trade rules.

The strategic objectives that the Forfás report said that Irish negotiators should push for should include: the elimination of all tariffs on industrial goods by 2015; improved access to the Irish and EU market for the exports of all developing countries; easing of restrictions on the temporary movement of professional services personnel to deliver services in overseas markets; and an indefinite moratorium on the application of custom duties by WTO members to electronic transmissions and e-services.

Forfás CEO Martin Cronin said: “As well as creating a more equitable international trading system for poorer countries, progress in the WTO negotiations will also support the efforts of Ireland’s development agencies to both attract a new generation of high value-added industries to Ireland and to grow the existing cohort of companies already operating successfully here.

Ireland’s efforts to position itself as a hub in audio-visual services, digital content and other media industries will, the report says, benefit from the development of ‘seamless’ global marketplaces in these industries as a result of WTO rule making. Similarly encouraging more Irish-owned small and medium-sized enterprises to trade with the US and other countries outside the EU market will benefit from an WTO-led simplification and harmonisation of international trade procedures and data requirements.

Since 1973, total Irish trade in goods and services has increased from €1.65bn, equal to 81pc of GDP that year, to €207.9bn in 2001, equal to 182pc of GDP that year. Over the same period, average Irish incomes moved from just over 60pc of the EU average to over 103pc, which Forfás says provides strong evidence that international trade liberalisation has been good for Irish living standards.

Getting the best returns from growing Irish public and private investment in R&D will be supported by an effective WTO system for the protection of intellectual property rights, the Forfás report recommends.
As a result, the report argues that Ireland should support a strengthening of the WTO and of the multilateral trading system and an ambitious approach to the elimination of remaining barriers to trade in goods and services.

By John Kennedy