Dáil Éireann - Volume 475 - 05 March, 1997

Other Questions. - Dublin-Belfast Economic Corridor.

13. Miss Harney asked the Minister for Tourism and Trade the steps, if any, he will take to ensure continuous development of the Dublin to Belfast economic corridor; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6021/97]

Mr. E. Kenny: The concept of the Dublin-Belfast economic corridor is an initiative being led by the IBEC-CBI Northern Ireland Business Council. The aim is to enhance the natural tendency of interaction between adjoining large cities to produce growth. The economic corridor is seen as a way of accelerating the development of North-South business thereby adding to the prosperity of the entire island. The corridor concept aims to tackle a range of issues, including the need for improved road and rail infrastructure and the level of contact between firms.

The agencies operating under the aegis of my Department, An Bord Tráchtála and Bord Fáilte, are promoting a number of programmes and initiatives designed to encourage cross-Border trade and tourism on the island as a whole which will further help the development of business on the corridor.

Mr. Molloy: Does the Minister accept that a large potential market is available to this country in Northern Ireland? We are getting a very small slice, about 7 per cent, of the North's imports and exports. Is there any proposal to establish a suppliers' charter for companies interested in selling goods into Northern Ireland? If the Northern Ireland authorities could participate, it would be a North-South charter, particularly in relation to public procurement contracts. About £7 billion worth of public contracts are awarded annually. Irish suppliers should be helped to get a bigger share of the market in the Six Counties.

Mr. E. Kenny: The Deputy talks a lot of common sense. We have done a great deal of work on this. The advantages lie with Northern Ireland exporters because the market in the Republic is larger than that of Northern Ireland. However, trade both ways is a good springboard for doing business in Great Britain and in continental Europe.

[1610] A great deal of information is available for those who wish to sell in Northern Ireland, trade there or get involved in joint ventures. I can arrange for this information to be supplied to Deputy Molloy by An Bord Trachtála. In addition, we have also published, through ABT, a number of excellent books and brochures indicating the various sectors in which business can be conducted, giving names and contact references for those who might still be interested. This clearly indicates the volume of potential business. We have actively encouraged these developments in co-operation with Baroness Denton, the economics Minister. Both State agencies are very anxious to co-operate in this regard. I agree there is a lot of potential which has expanded in recent years and which I hope will continue.

Mr. Molloy: The Minister will be familiar with the suppliers' charter established by the Government procurement agencies in Northern Ireland and will have received a request from IBEC to actively promote the establishment of a North/South suppliers' charter to which my supplementary question related, although it was not mentioned by the Minister in replying.

Mr. E. Kenny: I am not sure what Deputy Molloy means by the suppliers' charter. However, I can assure him that information is available in respect of the sectors in which various industries are interested in conducting business North and South, indicating the relevant contacts and personnel in order to exploit the undoubted market potential. While it may be questionable whether that could be described as a suppliers' charter, that information is available, some of which I will have transmitted to the Deputy.