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Tánaiste at the launch of the IEA’s 'Top 250 Exporters’ in Ireland Publication

Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore, European Union, Speech, Europe, 2012

Ladies and Gentlemen, Mark (Fitzgerald), John (Whelan), thank you for the kind invitation to join you today to launch the IEA publication on the 'Top 250 Exporters’ in Ireland.

Today’s event acknowledges the top exporting companies in Ireland, north and south of the border, and provides an excellent indication of how Ireland’s export firms are reacting to the current challenging international economic environment.

To begin I would like to extend my congratulations to Google on being named as the biggest exporter in Ireland for the first time. Having established its Europe/ Middle –East/ Africa (EMEA) Headquarters here less than 10 years ago, initially with just one hundred employees, Google now has an annual export turnover from Ireland of €10.1bn. By any reckoning, this truly is a remarkable success story.  

I would also like to extend my congratulations to all of the other companies who feature in the list of Ireland’s Top 250 exporters for 2011. Some of you have been mainstays of the Irish export sector for many years now; others have been established or have taken the decision to locate in Ireland more recently.

Looking down through the list, I see a real who’s who of world renowned companies. We are proud that so many of the most important firms in the world- many of whom are at the cutting edge in areas such as ICT, the life sciences and the newer digital data and gaming sectors - have chosen Ireland as the hub of their European networks.

This Government is committed to an export-led economic recovery and despite a difficult global economic environment, Ireland’s export performance is positive, as evidenced by the strong increases in exports of many of the companies who feature in today´s publication. Overall, from January to March 2012, Ireland recorded a trade surplus of €10.3 billion- the third-largest trade surplus in the EU.

Foreign Direct Investment is clearly a very important factor in driving our export-led economic recovery. Indeed, according to the IDA, its client companies account for 70% of Irish exports and a total of 250,000 jobs in the Irish economy. They spend €19 billion spend on Irish sourced goods and services, including €6.9 billion in payroll.

It is important as well as gratifying to note that, after some difficult years, our FDI stocks are on the increase again. In 2011 we witnessed a 30% increase in the number of companies investing in Ireland for the first time- a significant increase on the figure for the previous year. The figures for the first 6 months of 2012 are also impressive. The first half of this year has seen many companies who already have a presence here expand that presence. I have in mind such well known companies as Allergan, Abbott, Big Fish Games, HP, Mastercard, PayPal, Microsoft, Eli Lilly, Alkermes, Merit Medical, Cisco, SAP, IBM and Amazon.  

As multinational companies here will attest, FDI is generally attracted to Ireland for a combination of reasons, including: our educated, flexible, young workforce; our R&D incentives; our established track record of companies investing successfully in Ireland; and our competitive corporate tax rate.

Maintaining the edge and staying ahead of our competitors is paramount when it comes to continuing to attract FDI. This Government has introduced a number of new initiatives with these goals in mind. These include:

-          the innovative Succeed in Ireland initiative, introduced as part of the Action Plan for Jobs, which incentivises the promotion of Ireland as a destination in which to invest, primarily in the small to medium enterprise sector

-          further improvements introduced in this year’s budget to the existing R&D tax credit scheme, which already offers up to 25% tax credit on qualifying R&D expenditure

-          the Immigrant Investor Programme which encourages migrant entrepreneurs to establish their businesses in Ireland.

Attracting FDI is a very important element in our strategy to increase our exports. It is equally important, however, to acknowledge the growing contribution of indigenous companies, who enjoyed a record year for exports in 2011.

Enterprise Ireland is working on many initiatives, including management development programmes and R&D funding. In close liaison with the Trade and Promotion Division of my Department and our Embassy network, Enterprise Ireland organise trade missions throughout the year to our key priority markets to help grow international markets.   Our Embassies are indeed a key platform for helping to promote Irish exports and we work very closely with the State Agencies such as Enterprise Ireland, Bord Bia, Tourism Ireland and the IDA in the local market teams chaired by our Ambassadors in priority markets. 

EI has reported that its client companies achieved record levels of exports of €15.2bn in 2011.These companies are responsible for the direct and indirect employment of more than 300,000 people in Ireland. And it should be noted, of course, that the Irish companies listed in the Top 250 are just a small percentage of all of the Irish exporting companies that are helping to ensure that Ireland maintains a strong export economy.

When talking about the indigenous sector, I believe that it is particularly important to acknowledge the continued, exceptionally strong performance in the food and drink export sector and to welcome the strong representation of Irish-owned agri-food companies in the Top 250. In 2011, the value of our food exports increased by a quarter to total revenue of €8.84 billion, supporting 230,000 Irish jobs both directly and indirectly. I would like to commend Bord Bia for their excellent work in promoting Irish foods abroad.

The Government continues to support Irish companies to attain scale and export more. As part of the Government’s Action Plan for Jobs 2012, Enterprise Ireland recently created a Potential Exporters Division to deliver a wide range of initiatives focussed on helping more indigenous companies to trade in foreign markets. A new €150m Development Capital Scheme was launched to address the funding gap for mid-sized Irish businesses and to help them to grow to be ‘Large-scale’ manufacturing, technology and services companies based here in Ireland.

The three year corporation tax exemption scheme for start‐up companies was extended in this year’s budget until 2014 and, in March, the Government made its second call for proposals under the Innovation Fund Ireland scheme.

Before leaving you today, there is one other industry that I would like to acknowledge: the financial services industry and specifically the IFSC.  The IFSC celebrates 25 years this year and it has been a major success story over this period. It is truly a global centre of excellence.

The international financial services industry, with the IFSC at its core, has remained resilient throughout the global downturn and is continuing to act as a source of employment and income to the Irish state. This key dynamic industry remains at the core of our economic recovery. A detailed analysis by Dr. Constantin Gurdgiev of the important role of the IFSC is included in today´s publication and it makes for very interesting and, overall, positive reading.

Finally, I would like to congratulate the Irish Exporters Association, its President Mark Fitzgerald, and its Chief Executive, John Whelan, on this excellent publication which, I am sure, will serve as a useful reference document for many companies involved in our export sector. 

I am glad that John is an active participant in the Export Trade Council which I chair and I know that the Trade and Promotion Division of my Department has a very good working relationship with him and his colleagues in the Irish Exporters Association.  There has been particularly good co-operation on the series of IEA seminars aimed at a number of priority markets and regions this year.   We look forward to continuing to work with the IEA and all those working to develop Irish export markets.