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Speech by Minister Costello at the launch of the Latin America Trade Forum


Speech by the Minister for Trade and Development, Joe Costello T.D,

at the launch of the Latin America Trade Forum

 April 10th 2014



Distinguished Guests

I am delighted to be present this morning and to launch the Latin America Trade Forum. 

Me es muy grato estar con ustedes hoy para celebrar el lanzamiento del Latin America Trade Forum.  Gracias por su presencia aquí esta mañana.

[I am delighted to be here with you today to celebrate the launch of the

Latin America Trade Forum. Thank you for your presence here this morning.]

On a historic week for our country, when we are looking east to our near neighbour across the Irish Sea, it is also good to focus on countries and regions which are further away, but with which we have strong ties of history and mutual interest and with whom we are developing ever stronger and deeper trade and economic ties.  

The Latin America and Caribbean region is a region of great interest to Ireland as a valued partner from a trade and economic perspective, but also as a likeminded partner on the global stage on issues such as sustainable development.  It is also a region with which we have deep bonds of history, people and culture.

I very much welcome this initiative of the Irish Exporter’s Association and would like to thank its Chairman, Simon Mc Keever, as well as Jennifer Condon and their team for making it happen.

I would also like to wish the recently appointed Chairman of this Forum, Patrick Daly, every success.  Patrick, you can be assured that the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade look forward to working with you.

Valuable initiatives such as this Forum need supporters, and I welcome here to Iveagh House this morning the representatives of the sponsors –

-         Arthur Cox,

-         Digicel Group,

-         Fexco,

-         Fyffes,

-         KPMG, and

-         World Courier

Your willingness to promote the opportunities of this exciting region is much appreciated.

The Latin America and Caribbean region, with 33 countries, a GDP of five and a half trillion dollars, and a population of 600 million, is a strongly developing, increasingly prosperous, open, stable and dynamic region.

It is a part of the world that we need to understand better.  I am convinced that it is a region that offers exciting opportunities for Irish companies and exporters as our country moves forward with our dynamic, export driven recovery. 

Ireland already has significant interests in Latin America as many of you present today are well aware.  Our merchandise exports to the region in 2013 were 1.3 billion Euros, while total bilateral trade in goods amounted to 2.5 billion Euros, an increase of 28% since 2010. 

Last year Mexico became our seventeenth export market in the world. 

Brazil, one of the largest economies in the world, as well as being an important trading partner for us, is also a significant partner in higher education for many of our third level institutions as the Brazilian Government’s innovative Science without Borders programme enters its second successful year.   Argentina, home to our largest Diaspora outside the English speaking world, is also an important trade and economic partner for us, while our trade and economic ties with Chile are also growing strongly.

We also benefit from the wide range of EU Trade and Association Agreements with the countries of the region. Trade Agreements between the EU and Colombia and Peru entered into force last year as did the trade elements of the EU - Association Agreement with the countries of Central America. 

The EU and Cuba agreed recently to open negotiations on a political dialogue and cooperation agreement and we look forward very much to making progress on this.

Within the region, exciting developments such as the Pacific Alliance established by Mexico, Colombia, Peru, Chile is also leading to the disappearance of both tariff and non- tariff barriers between the countries of the Alliance and promising an eventual open trading area along the length of its pacific coast.   

All these regional and intra-regional integration processes should in turn contribute to sustaining the growth and development of trade in both goods and services and the creation of more integrated trading areas.

Ladies and Gentlemen

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, recognising the growing strategic importance of the region as a focus for Irish trade and investment, established a dedicated Latin America and Caribbean Unit in 2012. 

As an important further step in deepening ties, last February the Government agreed to expand our diplomatic footprint in the region with the opening of a Consulate General of Ireland in Sao Paulo, Brazil’s business centre.  

This increase in our diplomatic representation builds on the excellent networks and relationships established by our existing Embassy network and Ireland’s state agencies, as well as on the high profile and successful visits to the region by President Michael D. Higgins and by the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade to the EU – CELAC Summit in Chile during early 2013.

I had the great honour of accompanying the President on his two visits to the region and was able to see myself how Irish firms, third level institutions and other Irish interests are establishing themselves there as strong and reliable partners. 

I understand that President Higgins visit last year to Mexico, El Salvador and Costa Rica has resulted in an upsurge of interest in enquiries to Enterprise Ireland as well as the signature of several important contracts and agreements during the visit itself.   Equally, his earlier visit to Chile, Brazil and Argentina, has also cemented our strong relations with those countries and underlined our interest and determination to strengthen and develop the existing links between us.

On these visits, it was brought home to me in very real ways how the trade figures, important as they are, do not tell the whole story about our links to the region. 

In El Salvador, for example, I visited a Salvadoran company that supplies medical goods across the region, including many items made at a factory in Sligo that make their way along the supply chain around the world via its parent company in Germany. 

In Costa Rica, I had the opportunity to meet with the Fyffes team there and I was very impressed by the global reach and ambition of their operation in Central America. I am delighted that Fyffes are amongst the sponsors of the Latin America Trade Forum.

Next week I will return to Mexico to lead Ireland’s delegation at the High Level Meeting of the Global Partnership for Effective Development.  I am also looking forward to visiting the Kerry Group operation there, as well as to meeting with representatives of various Mexican-Irish trade partnerships.

Next month, here in Dublin, Dublin City Council will host an innovative conference. The Mexico-Dublin Business Conference will bring together senior Irish and Mexican business people at a Conference designed to show Mexico what Ireland can offer, in particular from an investment viewpoint.  This conference, hosted by Lord Mayor Oisin Quinn, and at which the Mexican Minister for the Economy will the guest of honour,  represents  yet another important step forward in building our relationship with Latin America.  I look forward to hosting participants at a networking event here in Iveagh House, and I hope that many of you can join us.

Ladies and Gentlemen, Amigos,

This morning’s launch of the Latin America Trade Forum is an important step forward in the effort to enhance and deepen our relationship with this region which, though far away in the geographic sense, in very close to us in so many other ways. 

I wish the IEA, the Latin American Trade Forum Chair Patrick Daly, the board and sponsors every best wish and I look forward to cooperating with you further as the initiative continues to grow and develop.

Muchísimas gracias.