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Tánaiste addresses the European Chamber of Ireland,16 June 2011

Press Release

The Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Mr Eamon Gilmore T.D. addresses the European Chamber of Ireland

Dublin, 16 June 2011

The Tánaiste, Mr Eamon Gilmore T.D., addressed the European Chamber of Ireland at its annual summer event in Dublin this evening. 

Speaking at the event, which was attended by over 300 representatives of European trade organisations, as well as by members of the diplomatic community, the Tánaiste stressed the importance of continuing to develop trade links with our European neighbours. The Tánaiste also paid tribute to the work of the European Chamber in giving its members a stronger voice within the Irish business community and helping their businesses here to expand, thus contributing to growth in the economy. 

The Tánaiste underlined the importance of export-led growth in economic recovery and the role of Ireland’s Embassy network in supporting this objective. He also emphasised the extent to which Ireland is becoming more competitive.

The Tánaiste encouraged the representatives of the European companies present to continue to invest in and grow their operations in Ireland.


Note to Editors

The Chamber, which is formed from European bilateral trade organisations and institutions representing 17 countries, aims to build trade and business links between Ireland and other European countries. 

The Tánaiste will address the Chamber at 17.30 this evening, 16 June 2011.  The full text of his address is attached. 


European Chamber of Ireland Event, 16 June 2011

Address by the Tánaiste

Ambassadors, Mr President, Ladies and Gentlemen.

I am delighted to be here this evening at this European Chamber of Ireland event on strengthening Irish trade with Europe.   Many of you will be aware that responsibility for Trade Promotion was transferred from the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation to my Department at the beginning of June. The invitation to address you this evening on how we can strengthen Irish –European trade therefore comes at a very timely moment.

I would like to share with you this evening  what we, the Government, are doing to help grow trade and support business trading in Europe, but first, by way of context , I would like to touch briefly on some key statistics which demonstrate the breadth and extent of our current trading relationship with Europe.

The EU and EFTA alone account for 62% of Irish merchandise exports. Merchandise trade with these countries in 2010 amounted to over €85 billion - a staggering amount- and despite some challenging economic circumstances, our trade figures continue to grow.

We are not, of course, new to trade. From earliest times, Ireland has been a trading nation. My own county, Galway, was known in the middle ages for being a centre for trade in wine and port with France and Spain, and Dublin, as you know, was an important Viking trading centre in the 10th and 11th centuries.

A thriving trade sector is key to Ireland’s continued development and I would like to take this opportunity to pay tribute this evening to the work undertaken by the many business organisations under the aegis of the European Chamber in helping their member companies to thrive and in giving them a stronger voice within the Irish business community.

Trade is more important to Ireland’s prosperity today than ever before.  It is now clear that the way out of our current economic difficulties will be through export –led growth.  In my enhanced role as Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, I am committed to fostering this growth and helping companies, such as those represented here today, to build on their existing business links abroad and consolidate their investments in Ireland. The Government is determined to work hard to promote sustainable jobs and growth, and to grow trade with our partners in Europe.

Ireland’s economic situation today has its own particularities,  but it is also part of the wider financial and economic crisis in the Eurozone and the EU  - and the solution to all of these  difficulties can only be found in that wider European framework. We appreciate the continued solidarity shown by our partners in Europe. We are stronger together than apart and it is important for the members of the European Union to work together for a peaceful and prosperous future for all.

I believe that Ireland’s future is at the heart of Europe: the EU has brought enormous benefits to all member states with the single market, for example, allowing Irish businesses to expand, and European businesses to trade here. It is unquestionable that Europe has been good for jobs, good for business and good for trade. Of course, our relationship with Europe is based on more than trade and investment: we are now a deeply connected continent. Irish people travel with frequency to other European countries for business and pleasure and have built up a rich network of personal and professional ties there.  Our young people study in each other’s universities under the Erasmus and Socrates programmes, and migration flows both in and out of Ireland in recent years have made meant that our bonds of kinship are stronger than ever.

Our ever-more connected continent is also ever more interdependent, and all European countries have an interest in each others’ wellbeing and economic health. We all want the EU, and the wider European continent, to become a smart and sustainable economy which will deliver high levels of productivity and employment. Together we can make this happen.

Together with our partners, we are building the greatly-enhanced economic governance which is needed to accompany the Euro. This has involved enhancing surveillance, mutual oversight of fiscal plans and the emergency funds of the European Financial Stability Facility and the future European Stabilization Mechanism. Taken together, the package of measures can help to preserve financial stability and lay credible groundwork for the creation of sustainable jobs and growth across the Union.

Within Ireland huge sacrifices have already been made to get to grips with the domestic situation: measures to the value of €14.6bn were implemented between 2008 and 2010 -this equates to 9% of GDP. 2011 and next year will see a further €9.6bn in adjustments implemented.

The good news is that indications are now that our economy is on the mend, and we have seen significant improvements in competitiveness.  Wages, rents and prices have all fallen, and this is good news for Irish businesses, as well as for European businesses with operations here.

In addition, economic recovery in international markets is fuelling increased demand for Irish products and services. Irish companies are widening their market reach, expanding into new international markets, and opening up new businesses. Multinationals are increasing exports from their Irish operations. Taken together, these all drive the return to growth in the Irish economy.

In 2010 exports grew by 7.8%, this means that the losses made in 2008 and 2009 have been recovered; in fact exports were at their highest ever level in 2010.

The Government will be building on this export growth. The new Export Trade Council, which I will chair, will bring together all key Departments and Agencies involved in the promotion and development of trade and exports, as well as representatives from the private sector, in order to draw on the experience of all those involved in growing export-orientated businesses.  While a key focus of the Council will be to look at how we can respond effectively to the potential in high-growth markets such as the BRIC countries, it is also clear that there is significant scope for expansion closer to home, into European markets.  There are obvious benefits to trade with Eurozone countries, as the absence of exchange-rate fluctuations provides certainty to businesses and allows them to plan ahead with more surety. However trade with countries outside the Eurozone is also doing well: in 2010 two-way trade in goods increased by 8% in the case of Turkey, by 28% in the case of Norway and by 53% in the case of Switzerland.

This indicates the potential that is out there, and shows the capacity of Irish companies to compete and flourish in these markets. I believe that Ireland’s Embassy network is a key platform for the promotion of trade and assisting Irish business abroad. At the conference of our Ambassadors earlier this month I encouraged them to continue to attach the highest priority to economic aspects of their work. 

I also emphasised the need to promote Ireland as a country to do business in. Despite our difficulties, Ireland retains the key attributes which attracted companies from throughout Europe and the world to set up here: a business-friendly environment, and a youthful, well-educated and innovative workforce. It is important to get this message across and to remind businesses worldwide, and in Europe, that Ireland is- for good reason- still the destination of choice for many of the world’s leading firms. According to the World Competitiveness Report 2010 - Ireland ranked 7th for flexibility and adaptability of its people, 6th for labour productivity and 4th for availability of skilled labour: so there are many reasons for European business to continue to invest and expand here.

This is the message which I have brought with me on my recent visits to New York, London, Paris and Oslo and I will be making the same points next week when I travel to Vienna.

The coming years will be critical for the creation of a modern, knowledge-based, sustainable economy in Ireland.  Increased levels of trade and investment between Ireland and Europe will be vital to this end. I believe that the European Chamber, and its constituent organisations, can play a valuable role in this regard, in helping to develop positive European-Irish relations and in bringing our business communities together to avail fully of the many opportunities that can provide mutual benefit. I would like to pay tribute again to the European Chamber for its very constructive and useful work and to extend my very best wishes for its continued success in the years ahead.