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Minister Flanagan launches American Chamber of Commerce Ireland - US Economic Report

Minister Charles Flanagan, Trade, Speech, Ireland, North America, 2015

Opening remarks by Minister Flanagan at AMCHAM Ireland – US Economic Report launch

Good morning and thank you for inviting me here today to launch the AMCHAM US Economic Report.

A special thanks too to Jeff from Amazon for hosting us. The report we’ll discuss this morning tells us of the scale of the US-Irish relationship as it is - and the potential to do so much more.
Amazon is such a great example of that – 1400 jobs already here in Ireland, 300 more jobs announced in the last few months. And among the selection of US investors represented here at this morning’s roundtable, I believe the figure for the numbers you together employ already - or have firm plans to employ soon - amounts to more than 12,500.

That is extraordinary and is deeply appreciated by the government of Ireland and by the communities and local businesses who benefit from your presence and investment here. Almost all of you are expanding too. Some are expanding after over twenty years growing operations in Ireland, like Intel – I welcome Eamonn Sinnott, here on behalf from Intel and in his capacity as AMCHAM President. Others among you have arrived more recently – I hope you are settling in well!

I’m delighted this morning to launch this important report, which should be made known and discussed widely. I’ve also asked Ireland’s Consul General, Barbara Jones, to launch it with AMCHAM in New York next week so that audiences in the US can start to study it too. I look forward to using it as a reference point in my engagements with businesses in New York during my St. Patrick’s Day visit.

This is a roundtable event and I intend to be in listening mode. I want in a moment to hear from you on your initial reflections on this report. We have in this room representatives of the ICT, online, financial services and pharma/medical sectors in particular, as well as the head of Science Foundation Ireland.

But first, I will make a few short comments myself from my perspective as Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade.

On the report itself first, I want to congratulate Joseph Quinlan on this excellent work carried out with the support of AMCHAM. Building on the reports of previous years, Joseph’s findings are fascinating, not least some of the statistics contained within his report:

• For example, the fact that US investment in Ireland since 1990 is reported to have amounted to US$277 billion. The equivalent figure for Brazil, Russia, India and China combined is US$185 billion – one-third less than investment to Ireland.

• Also, the scale of the two-way benefit to our economic relationship – the report states that Ireland’s investment position in the US is larger than that of Italy, Denmark or Finland.

Most of the news in the report can be described as “positive” or “very positive” – this is the result of hard work by governments, companies and their employees in making the US and Irish economies competitive. Ultimately this is down to the dynamic and can-do nature of our two peoples.

You and your companies are here because you want to be here. You’re also here because we worked very hard to make the conditions right for you.

Notwithstanding the mostly-improving numbers, we must, at all costs, avoid any complacency, as I wrote in the report’s Foreward. As in all your companies, change and continuous improvement is simply essential.

Governments, like companies, must look at this report and think “this is good, but we can do even better, we can work even harder”.

The report sets out some ways we can achieve that, and I hear in particular what it says regarding the need for a “big bang” catalyst in the form of TTIP, the proposed EU-US trade agreement. At EU level, with the support and co-operation of national governments, we are working to reach agreement – you as employers and AMCHAM members can play an important role in convinceing people of its merits.

I also hear loud and clear the messages on talent as a key to sustaining the recent good news.

So what is the government doing?

You know well Ireland’s economic and financial reforms of the last few years, which were aimed full-square at job-creation. You have been key partners in this and the results are there to see. Unemployment has dropped sharply from a peak of 15.1% down to a current level of 10.1% and is now at its lowest in over six years. There have been thirty-nine consecutive months of reductions in the numbers unemployed in Ireland since the first Annual Action Plan for Jobs.

We’ve rolled out sector-specific supports and new strategic thinking, ranging from research supports to the new financial services strategy agreed by the Government this week. I intend to promote that Strategy to financial services leaders in both Toronto and New York next week.

My own Department has also reviewed our policy priorities, with a focus now on the very linked themes of “people” and “prosperity” –exactly the areas you focus on too in your work.

Within the “people” theme, we have a new Diaspora policy which I launched with the Taoiseach, the Tánaiste and Minister Deenihan on Tuesday. One of its major priorities is bringing back the Irish talent you all need even more of.

In pursuing our “prosperity” goal, whether it’s through chairing the Export Trade Council, which brings together key government departments, state agencies and private sector companies; working on the ground across the US and beyond with the state agencies; or working government-to-government on trade issues – such as TTIP or the re-opening of the US market for Irish beef – my Department is always involved and always available.

Also, since this report was launched last year, we’ve expanded our footprint further in the US, opening a new Consulate General in Austin and adding to our diplomatic team in Washington.

We’re also on the road and in the air, promoting more trade and investment and talking to governments around the world. I, the Taoiseach, Tánaiste and 5 more of my Ministerial colleagues will be travelling to the US this year for St Patrick’s Day. Every one of us will have trade promotion events at the core of our programmes.

So, my message is that you’re in the right place and I commend you on your wisdom in locating in Ireland – our competitiveness relative to our trading partners has improved significantly in recent years.

Now, I want to hear from you all on what you think and what you need to make your own US-Ireland economic story an even better one. Your views and feedback will help me ahead of my visit to New York next week.