Published on 

Taoiseach Addresses Brookings Institute, Washington DC

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar this evening delivered a foreign policy address to the Brookings Institution, Washington DC.

Speaking on EU/US relations, the Taoiseach said:

Both the government and people of Ireland are strongly committed to the EU. In the most recent polls, over 80 per cent of Irish people support EU membership. As a small country, we know that our interests and values are best advanced and protected through a Union of 500 million people.

We also value our relationship with the United States, based as it is on the shared values of democracy and the rule of law, respect for the freedom and dignity of all, irrespective of origin, religion, sexuality or ethnicity.

For years, this relationship helped provide a bridge between the EU and the United States. I fear that there is a danger that the EU and the United States may drift apart due to growing divisions on trade, tax, climate change and many other areas.

Such a development would not be in the interests of the people on either side of the Atlantic. Ireland can and is willing to act as a bridge between the US and the EU to interpret one to the other and to help ensure that positive and constructive relations are maintained and developed.

Our relationship with the United States is grounded in a strong bilateral economic relationship. Ireland and the US are two of the fastest growing economies in the transatlantic economy, with a robust, integrated and deep economic relationship.

Every week, €2 billion in goods and services is traded in both directions across the Atlantic. And while the story of US investment in Ireland – as a gateway to the EU Single Market – is well known, it is often less well appreciated that the flow of investment is strong in both directions.

Irish companies provide more than 100,000 jobs in the United States, with our enterprises present in every state.

As one of the most open small economies in the world, Ireland is a strong proponent of free trade and free enterprise.

Alongside our EU partners, we oppose any steps that raise barriers to trade, whether through the imposition of tariffs or otherwise. Trade barriers make losers of us all.

As the President of the European Council Donald Tusk has said, trade wars are bad, and they are easy to lose.

Our world is getting smaller. Sometimes that seems to magnify the problems, but this is more a question of perspective than it is of scale.

The Brookings Institution does a valuable job in providing some of that perspective.

Referring to Ireland's humanitarian work around the world, the Taoiseach said:

Ireland is committed to playing its part in making the world’s problems more manageable, and in working to eliminate extreme poverty.

There are the humanitarian tragedies across the Sahel and the Horn of Africa, and of course in Syria and Yemen, where politics has failed in a spectacular and tragic way.

We want to build on our reputation for quality development cooperation, to do more and to do so even better.

In 2014, the Brookings Institution rated Irish Aid as the ‘outstanding’ development aid programme among 31 donors. We intend to continue in that vein.

We will need to work with old partners – including Governments in Africa, civil society, the European Union and the multilateral system, in particular the United Nations.

And we will need to work in new and innovative ways, listening carefully to our partners and their needs, and working with their strengths.

This evening, the Taoiseach and Senator George Mitchell will be keynote speakers at a Congressional event marking the 20th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement. 

Read the Taoiseach's full speech here.

Watch back here