BaileNuachtAithisc an Taoisigh

Speech by An Taoiseach Enda Kenny TD at the launch of the Trade and Investment Strategy “Ireland Connected: Trading and Investing in a Dynamic World”


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Opening remarks

Good Morning.

I am delighted to welcome you to the launch of “Ireland Connected”, our new Trade and Investment Strategy.

The publication of this new strategy is very timely for several reasons.

In the coming days, we begin the 2017 St. Patrick’s Day programme of ministerial visits. Our primary objective is to promote Ireland as a location for trade, investment and tourism.

This year, Ministers will take part in over 120 business events, 100 high level political meetings and more than 300 cultural events across 50 different cities in 27 different countries.
This is the most significant opportunity in the calendar year for Ireland to promote and project itself on the world stage. The strategy being published this morning is a timely and vital input to these ministerial-led missions, and will also support the ongoing work of our agency officials and diplomats overseas.

However, beyond its immediate contribution to this year’s St. Patrick’s Day programme, this strategy comes at a very important juncture for Ireland.

As we prepare for the decade ahead – which we know will be characterised by emerging uncertainties and intensified challenges - “Ireland Connected” provides us with a strategic plan on the future of our trading relationships.

The targets and actions set out in the strategy will help us navigate our journey, and measure our progress along the way.
· For indigenous exports, including food, we plan to reach €26 billion by 2020, a 26% increase from 2015;
· For tourism, we are targeting €5 billion extra in overseas tourism by 2025 to help create 30,000 more jobs in the sector;
· For FDI, we are targeting 900 new investments in the years from 2015 to 2019; and
· For education, we are planning to increase international student numbers by over a quarter by 2020.

It’s worth bearing in mind that Ireland enters this period of uncertainty on a relatively sound footing. The economic outlook for 2017 and beyond makes it clear that we are rapidly leaving behind us the most profound economic crisis the country has ever experienced. While we are not fully out of the woods yet, there are grounds for optimism and confidence.

With economic growth this year projected to be 3.5%, we have one of the highest growth rates in the EU. Employment is now at its highest level since 2008. The fact that employment levels have risen in all sectors and regions in the past year is a clear indication that our recovery is broad-based and sustainable.

As one of the world’s most open, export-based economies, this country is no stranger to international competition.

Irish businesses continue to expand their international footprint across all key markets, while we continue to extend our long track record of competing successfully against the best in the world to attract inward investment.

Economic headwinds and new challenges

Nevertheless, the Government is keenly aware of the economic headwinds that we are facing into.

Significant issues like Brexit, potential policy changes by large trading economies such as the US and China, currency fluctuations and energy prices are but some of the challenges we must deal with.

This is why today’s launch of “Ireland Connected”, which sets out the strategic framework in which we will deal with such challenges, is so timely.

Brexit, the most immediate and significant of the risks we are facing, poses unprecedented political, economic and diplomatic challenges for Ireland.

While the majority of Irish services and goods exports are to the European and US markets, Brexit will reshape Ireland’s enterprise and export strategy for decades to come.
It will require a truly joined-up approach by all Government departments, agencies and our diplomatic services to deal with this challenge.

At a strategic level, we will continue to maintain our focus on competitiveness, and as this new strategy reaffirms, our direction of travel will be to further diversify and intensify our engagement with non-UK markets, with a particular emphasis on opportunities in the Eurozone.

The overarching strategic objective of diversifying and deepening our reach into overseas markets will best be achieved by making sure that Irish institutions at home and abroad work seamlessly with expanding Irish businesses.

To complement our strategic approach to trade and investment, the Government has also commenced a review of our industrial policy, Enterprise 2025. This review, due to be completed later this year, will set out policy and investment priorities for supporting Irish enterprise to become more diverse and resilient.

Aside from negotiating and managing risks in relation to Brexit, Ireland will also maintain a focus on our trade relations with other parts of the world.

Our bilateral economic relations with the United States will remain a top priority – and one that I will be making every effort to enhance when I travel to the United States in the coming days.

Wherever we trade, wherever we export, wherever we seek to secure inward investment from, Ireland has and will continue to compete and succeed.

Our Embassy and agency personnel, our officials at home and overseas, and our political representatives, all have important roles to play.

Of course, Irish companies themselves must – and I am confident will - navigate their way through this period of uncertainty, using their skill, competitive instincts and innovation capabilities.
Our strategy is clear.

Let our focus be sharp, our endeavours collective, our efforts determined – and the results will look after themselves.

Thank you.