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Minister of State Ciarán Cannon, TD., Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce Irish Lunch

A dhaoine uasaile agus a cairde,

Ladies and Gentlemen, Distinguished guests, it is a great honour for me to be here today. As Minister for the Diaspora and International Development, I’m delighted to be in Chicago, a city with such a strong Irish heritage to celebrate St Patrick’s Day.

On Saturday 17th March many will attend the downtown parade trading their standard weekend colours for green. That mass of many shades of green contrasting with the majestic architecture of Chicago under the clear blue Midwest sky is viewed with tremendous pride back home.

Chicago looms large in Irish consciousness. It is a sister city of Galway, where I hail am from. It is also home to Ireland’s first member of our Parliament to be based outside of Ireland, Senator Billy Lawless, another Galway man. Senator Lawless was appointed to underline the Government’s commitment to our Diaspora.

The green of Ireland has acquired a double meaning in the United States as Irish companies have invested $85billion in the US economy, making Ireland the 9th largest source of Foreign Direct Investment in the US according to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis.

Today, Irish firms employ over 100,000 people in the United States, and many of these positions are in high-value scientific and technology roles.

The Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Leo Varadkar describes Ireland, as a Global Island at the centre of the world and a country at the heart of Europe.

The Government has announced plans to double Ireland’s global footprint by 2025. In addition to the expansion of Ireland’s diplomatic network, core to this goal will be Enterprise Ireland, which is the Government Agency responsible for the development of Irish industry abroad. Last summer, Enterprise Ireland expanded its US footprint by opening an office right here in downtown Chicago, a city in the heart of America, highlighting Ireland’s continued focus on growing Irish client relationships with US companies.

This global expansion is particularly important in light of recent Brexit discussions.

There has been much discussion and uncertainty relating to Britain’s departure from the European Union – Brexit- and I want to clearly state Ireland’s stance on Brexit and how Brexit will impact our economy and strategic outlook for the future. Undoubtedly there are major challenges ahead in the negotiations, but we have prepared well: Ireland and the EU will meet these challenges. Ireland remains fully committed to the EU and is part of “Team EU” for the negotiations.

EU membership remains central to the success of our open, competitive economy and has been the foundation for much of the economic and social progress we have made over the last four decades.

When Ireland joined the EU, our reliance on the UK for our exports was over 50%, now the UK accounts for just 12% of our total goods exports.

We intend to maintain our strong relationships with both the EU and the UK and continue diversifying our exports to other nations like the USA, which will be particularly important as a market diversification partner in light of Brexit.

With that said, Ireland’s economy has remained very strong and is growing: Real GDP growth is forecast at 3.5% in 2018 and 3.2% in 2019. The forecasts reflect growth in exports and in domestic demand.

Unemployment has fallen steadily from a peak of 16% in early-2012 to just 6.1% in January 2018, with more than 2.2 million people in employment. Our unemployment rate is below the EU (7.3%) and Eurozone (8.7%) averages.

Our budget for 2018 focuses on safeguarding the national finances, promoting fairness and providing for sustained improvements in people's lives and making sensible and long-term investments to benefit us now and into the future. The Budget will deliver the objective of balancing the books in structural terms by achieving Ireland’s Medium Term Budgetary Objective (MTO).

The United States is now Ireland’s top trading partner: US$36.1 billion (26.8% of total Irish exports) compared to US$18.3B to the U.K. (13.5% of total Irish Exports).

The USA is and will to continue to be a very important trading partner for Irish companies— exports to North America by Enterprise Ireland client companies grew by an impressive 19% to €3.74bn in 2016.

As of January 2018, 800 Irish-owned companies operate across all 50 states.

In this State of Illinois there are 31 Enterprise Ireland supported companies employing over 5000 people.

Over the past five years, 180 Enterprise Ireland clients have established new presences in the US, in 2017 alone, EI clients opened 59 new offices in the US, an 18% increase on 2016.

On behalf of the Irish Government I would like to acknowledge the US business representatives in the room, and to thank you for your strong willingness to engage and partner with Irish companies, in addition to sharing your industry knowledge with Enterprise Ireland and their clients, the give you give to both Enterprise Ireland, their clients, really helps us to further develop the strong ecosystem in Ireland and produce innovative solutions across the Life Sciences, Industrial, Automotive, and Financial sectors.

I would like to conclude by congratulating our 4 Irish client panelists for their companies’ outstanding achievements to date. You are truly global leaders in your fields, and embody the spirit of global ambition through your valuable contribution to US Midwest firms and the local economy. A special thank you to all for your engagement today with the local Chicago and Midwestern business community and the local Enterprise Ireland Office in Chicago!

Beannachtaí na Féile Padraig oraibh go léir agus go raibh míle maith agaibh.

Happy St Patrick’s Day to you all. Thank You.

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