Dáil Éireann - Volume 452 - 10 May, 1995

Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - US Conference on Trade and Investment in Ireland.

[1298] 9. Ms O'Donnell asked the Minister for Tourism and Trade his Department's involvement in the Trade and Investment Conference to be held in Washington this month; and the assistance, if any, being given to Irish industry to participate in this conference. [8381/95]

Mr. E. Kenny: The White House Conference on Trade and Investment in Ireland is being hosted by President Clinton and is being organised by the office of Senator Mitchell, Special Adviser to the President, the United States Department of State and the United States Department of Commerce.

My Department and the agencies under my aegis, An Bord Tráchtála and Bord Fáilte are co-operating with other Departments and agencies, in particular the Department of Foreign Affairs, in providing any assistance requested by the organising US authorities.

I hope to attend the conference which will include a breakout session on tourism during which I would hope that the issues of access, marketing and investment in Irish tourism will be discussed.

On the trade side, there will be two breakout sessions which will discuss United States business partnership possibilities through mechanisms such as joint ventures, franchising, licensing arrangements, technology transfer and contract manufacturing.

In addition, around 50 companies from Border counties are expected to participate in matchmaker meetings with United States companies which are seeking possible partners in specific industry sectors.

The question of assistance to companies invited to participate in this conference is one the agencies will consider as part of their day-to-day functions.

Mr. Molloy: Since part of the purpose of my question was to establish what level of assistance will be granted and [1299] what arrangements are being made to assist industries to attend that conference, I was disappointed at that part of the Minister's reply which was very vague. Would the Minister care to add anything to his reply and indicate whether Members of this House, representing each of the political parties, will be assisted in any way in the expenditure incurred in attending that conference?

Mr. E. Kenny: This conference is being organised by the American side in co-operation with our Department of Foreign Affairs, which Department deals with requests from the American authorities. There has not been a great deal of information forthcoming on who has been invited to this conference from the American side. I suppose the authorities there are awaiting confirmation by the companies invited to attend by the President. I understand that a number of Deputies and Senators, together with a small number of Ministers, will be attending.

Mr. Molloy: My question referred to what assistance would be given Irish companies to attend. Can the Minister give us those details?

Mr. E. Kenny: I cannot say which companies will be attending. However, Deputy Molloy can take it that each request to attend the conference, having being confirmed, will be considered by An Bord Tráchtála as part of the normal assistance it gives companies in travelling overseas.

Mr. Andrews: Can the Minister inform the House how many individuals — whether public representatives or other — and companies will attend this conference; whether it will be one with a cast of thousands and its duration? It would appear to entail a huge influx of people into a conference centre. I should like to think it will be successful since the discussions will concentrate on trade and investment in this country. [1300] Nonetheless, it would appear to carry all the hallmarks of potential chaos.

Mr. E. Kenny: The conference, which is known officially as the White House Conference on Trade and Investment in Ireland, will be hosted by the President of the United States, Mr. William J. Clinton, with Secretary of State, Mr. Warren M. Christopher, Mr Ronald H. Browne, Secretary of Commerce, Senator George G. Mitchell, Special Adviser to the President and the Secretary of State, senior Government officials and business leaders from Ireland and the United Kingdom, chief executive officers of leading United States companies with experience in the Republic and Northern Ireland and will take place from 24 to 26 May 1995. I understand that valiant efforts are being undertaken to ensure that this conference will not be an end in itself but rather a valuable beginning for continuous investment in Ireland.

Mr. Molloy: Would the Minister inform President Clinton at this conference that the greatest benefit he could confer on our tourist industry would be to grant direct access to air transport for American tourists from the southern States to Ireland? If the Minister returns having achieved that objective, his trip will have been worthwhile.

Mr. E. Kenny: Deputy Molloy will be aware that that is a commercial decision for an airline carrier. I have already pointed out that I will be meeting my colleague, the Minister for Transport, Energy and Communications, to draw up a clear agenda of our requirements in terms of my remit as Minister for Tourism and Trade in marketing Ireland abroad and catering for increasing numbers of tourists wishing to visit this country and with the remit of the Minister for Transport, Energy and Communications in providing access and transport services generally. In that context we hope to meet the heads of the carriers attending the conference to [1301] explain the commercial opportunities obtaining and, as a result, the viability of what is on offer here. I cannot say whether we will achieve what Deputy Molloy requires since I view this conference as representing the beginning of a process. It would be my hope that we can work diligently and effectively on that process.

Mr. Molloy: Will there be one held annually?

Mr. Andrews: The Minister says it will be the beginning of a process. I am glad to know that the five people the Minister mentioned will be attending, beginning with the President of the United States, Mr. Bill Clinton. When the conference concludes, will the Minister report to the House on its success or otherwise within, say, 48 hours?

Mr. E. Kenny: I presume the Tánaiste who is our principal speaker at the conference will be willing to give a report to the House when the conference concludes.