‘Ireland’s Economic Recovery’
Monday 17 March 2014
Lt. Governor Duffy,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am delighted to join you again here in St. Bart’s for this very special day. Thank you for inviting me back this year.
When I met Brian a few weeks ago in Dublin, he offered all sorts of enticing suggestions about how I should spend my time this year during my St. Patrick’s Day visit.
Unfortunately, Brian, I do have work to do, and won’t be able to take up the best of your suggestions.
But it is a genuine pleasure to come back here to speak again to the Irish Chamber of Commerce USA. And I’m glad to have the opportunity to tell you about Ireland’s journey in the past year.
I spoke here before about the challenges that lay ahead of us.
Challenges, and also opportunities – for Ireland and for Europe – to develop and deepen our economic and social ties with the United States.
I’m pleased to say that a great deal has changed in Ireland in the last 12 months.
Ireland’s Economic Recovery
The country is now moving in the right direction and while there is still some way to go yet there are reasons to be positive.
Today, our economy is growing.
We have seen over 61,000 jobs created in the past year – in US terms, that would represent an increase of more than five million extra people at work in one year.
It is also the fastest jobs growth rate in Europe.
We remain intent on making Ireland the best small country in the world in which to do business.
And we are succeeding.
Exiting the EU/IMF Programme
After three years of sacrifice, hard work, and rebuilding, Ireland successfully exited the EU/IMF bailout last December.
First and foremost, this is an achievement belonging to the Irish people. It is their hard work, their sacrifice that has made this possible.
As the first country inside the Euro area to successfully emerge from an EU/IMF bailout, it is a significant vote of international confidence in Ireland and an important milestone.
The recent announcement by Moody’s to upgrade Ireland’s credit rating and to change the outlook to positive sent another very positive signal to investors. Ireland’s debt is now recognized as investment grade by all the main credit ratings agencies.
However, we cannot afford to be complacent. Our challenge is to keep moving forward, to keep rebuilding our economy, to keep creating jobs.
Medium Term Economic Strategy
We are now implementing a medium-term plan for jobs and growth, which has two central targets:
First, to reduce the Government deficit to under 3% of GDP by 2015 and to eliminate it altogether by 2018.
Second, to replace all 330,000 jobs lost during the recession with new jobs by 2020.
We will reach these targets by focusing on continued responsible management of our public finances.
With 90% of our budgetary correction already done, we will eliminate the deficit by 2018.
We will complete the job of Banking Reform to ensure our Banks are supporting economic recovery.
And we will focus relentlessly on creating jobs, including through our multi-annual Action Plan for Jobs framework.
We also remain focused on the importance of trade. I know the Irish Chamber USA appreciates the significant potential there is for businesses on both sides of the Atlantic to benefit from a comprehensive trade agreement.
Negotiations are now well underway. While nobody has ever claimed that these negotiations would be easy, the prize is most certainly worth it.
And we in Ireland will do all we can to secure a substantive deal to the mutual benefit of both our countries.
US – Ireland Economic Relationship
The importance to Ireland of a healthy, vibrant and open US economy cannot be over-stated. As Ireland’s single largest export market for goods, last year the US consumed 21% of our goods exports.
Our economic relationship with the US works so well because it works in both directions – with over 220 Irish companies employing tens of thousands of people across all 50 US States.
As well as selling our goods and services to the world, Ireland’s recovery has been driven by inward investment.
2013 was a record year for investment into Ireland by multinational companies with 7,000 new jobs created in this sector. Ireland won a total of 164 projects, with 78 of these from companies investing in Ireland for the first time.
US firms in particular play a major role in Ireland’s economic progress. One striking statistic illustrates this fact - US firms have invested more capital in Ireland since 1990 (some $189bn) than the four BRIC nations combined.
Last year Ireland’s progress was recognised by Forbes magazine which named Ireland the best country in the world for business.
Of course, there are many reasons why US companies choose to invest in Ireland - our talented, flexible, English-speaking workforce, our pro-business environment, our technology, and our track record of achievement.
Another part of our offering is our competitive corporation tax rate of 12.5%, to which we remain strongly committed.
Ireland offers a transparent corporation tax regime accompanied by a rapidly growing network of international tax treaties with full exchange of tax information.
And we are actively engaged in the debates that have been underway internationally about corporation tax practices, including in the EU and in the US Congress.
Last year was also a great year for tourism between Ireland and the US, due largely to the success of The Gathering.
I am proud to say that last year we welcomed one million Americans to Ireland. This represented a record year for Irish tourism from the US, with remarkable growth of close to 14%.
I want to say to each person here who in any way supports and contributes to the economic relationship between Ireland and the United States: thank you.
Ireland is on the right track and with friends like yourselves, I am confident that we will continue to make steady progress on our journey towards full economic recovery.
Go raibh mile maith agaibh.