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Remarks by An Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar to mark the visit of IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde

Check Against Delivery

I’m delighted to welcome Managing Director of the IMF, Christine Lagarde, to Government Buildings.

We had a very positive exchange, including on economic outlook, international trade, and gender equality issues.

The IMF expects to publish its annual report on Ireland shortly, and we had a good discussion of both our strengths and the risks and challenges we face.

I’m pleased that our views were very consistent - reflecting the analysis in the Summer Economic Statement published by Minister Donohoe last week. We are enjoying a period of strong growth and increased employment, but we must proceed carefully to share the benefits with everyone and throughout the country, while guarding against the type of policies that have resulted in the boom-bust of the past.

We are investing in the future - including in infrastructure - and we are ensuring Ireland will be well prepared should any of the external risks we face materialise.

It is always valuable to hear the views of external experts, and we will always listen carefully to what the IMF has to say.

We also discussed the current situation on trade.

Madame Lagarde & the IMF are among the strongest and most vocal champions of the open rules-based multilateral order which underpins modern economic prosperity. A view we in Ireland strongly share based on free trade and free markets.

Growing international tensions present a real risk to economies, including Ireland's, one of the most open in the world. We agreed that in a trade war, there are no winners.
Madame Lagarde also told me about the important work she is doing to advance gender equality, including in placing it at the centre of the IMF’s work. I offered her my strong support in this on behalf of Ireland as an IMF member State.

In employment terms, the participation rate for Irish women has recovered in recent years, but still lags being many of our partners and peers. This needs to change.
This month, the Government will approve the General Scheme of Gender Pay Gap Bill which will promote transparency on wage levels – initially for large employers, 250+ employees, but extending over time to smaller employers.

We will also establish a business-led group charged with increasing the representation of women on boards of the largest Irish publicly listed companies.

For State Boards we’re already making good progress, 52% of those appointed in 2017 were female, bringing average female representation on State Boards to just under 40% by year-end.

Once again, Christine, you are very welcome. I’d now invite you to say a few words.