IRISH TRADE WITH UK

 

Sir, - Deputy Paul McGrath correctly points out that the UK share of our export is now some 25 per cent of the total. He is also correct in saying that Government policy has been to increase our exports to mainland Europe which would result in diversifying our exports away from the UK. The implementation of Government policy, however, has been responsible for only a small percentage of the diversification of our exports to Europe.

The decisions of the multinational corporations, which account for 60 per cent of our total exports, are the key to the growth of our exports to Europe. The indigenous manufacturing sector including the food industry, is still heavily dependent on the UK. Efforts to develop new markets are entirely laudable, but these should not be at the expense of our position in the UK which as we write, seems set for substantial growth in the short term and with an appreciating currency.

The relatively slow pace of development of mainland European markets by the indigenous manufacturing sector can be attributed to two causes - language and products. The understanding of European culture and the ability to develop business there require a comprehensive knowledge of the language of the market which is sadly missing in Ireland's case. We could easily address this by introducing a European language into primary schooling, using native speakers resident in Ireland if our teachers lack the fluency required. In ten years, this policy would start to yield dramatic results.

The second major question that arises is that of marketable products. We invest so little, as a nation, in product design and adaptation that a lot; of what we produce is not marketable outside the UK and Ireland. The Government has just produced a White Paper on Science, Technology and Innovation which, although excellent in many ways, does not address the critical linkage which industrial design provides between science technology, innovation and markets. The White Paper even acknowledges the so called European Paradox"... Europe is strong on science, but weak on innovations turning science into products and profits..."

Without a market focus, there is the ever present danger of channelling resources - and the White Paper talks about resources of £800 million - into research for its own sake, with no end in sight.

The Minister for Commerce, Science and Technology has stated, in reply to our letter, that while the White Paper acknowledges the importance of design, it is not the appropriate place to address the breadth of issues involved". So now we know. The Minister, in an article in your newspaper recently, asked whether there is anybody out there. Where are all those industrial designers? - Yours, etc.,

Irish Exporters' Association,

Holbrook House,

Holles Street,

Dublin 2.