Kenny on US trip to promote Ireland


Taoiseach Enda Kenny begins a two-day visit to the United States today in a bid to enhance business links between the two countries.

Mr Kenny will attend a series of engagements in Philadelphia and Cleveland as part of his two-day schedule beginning with an address at the Brehon Law Society Symposium in Philadelphia this morning.

Mr Kenny’s visit is aimed at delivering a message to international business people, investors and the Irish diaspora that “Ireland is open for business”. It is his sixth visit to the US since becoming Taoiseach and underlines the extent to which the Government hopes foreign investment will help kick-start the economy.

Latest figures indicate that US multinationals in Ireland were responsible for just over one-quarter of Ireland’s gross domestic product (GDP) last year.

This morning, Mr Kenny is due to address the Brehon Law Society symposium on “doing business in the US and Ireland”, and is expected to highlight how Ireland has become more competitive in recent times. He will also take part in a number of political and business engagements in the city.

In the afternoon, the Taoiseach is due to arrive in Cleveland, Ohio, where he is scheduled to speak at the City Club, a non-partisan debating forum aimed at opinion-formers, elected representatives and business people.

While Ohio is a key battleground state – where both presidential candidates have visited on dozens of occasions in recent months – officials say there are no plans to meet the candidates.

Later today, he is due to visit the Cleveland Clinic, a non-profit academic medical centre that provides provides clinical and hospital care. The clinic featured in the recent televised presidential debate when both president Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney found common ground in praising the clinic, agreeing it provided a model for other health systems to follow.

The centre has topped hospital rankings for several years and has been recognised for pioneering a low-cost, high-quality approach to healthcare.

Mr Kenny’s visit continues in Cleveland on Saturday, when he is due to meet with the city’s Democrat mayor, Frank Jackson.

He is also scheduled to attend various Irish community events during the course of the day and promote “The Gathering 2013”, a tourism initiative aimed at attracting the Irish diaspora to return to Ireland next year.

Mr Kenny is due to complete his trip by attending the Mayo Society’s annual ball. Cleveland has a sizable Irish-American community, with a significant number claiming roots from the Taoiseach’s home county.

While Enterprise Ireland has been seeking to attract US investment into Ireland, Government officials say they hope the arrival of the Taoiseach will give these efforts an added boost. “We’ve found that face-to-face meetings are very productive – and to have the Taoiseach involved can be very important,” one official said.

A study by the American Chamber of Commerce published earlier this month found that the US’s total foreign direct investment in Ireland totalled some €146 billion in 2011, a five-fold increase since 2000. In fact, its investment is significantly more than neighbours Germany and France. The study estimates the economic output of US multinationals in Ireland represents about 26.5 per cent of Ireland’s GDP.

While Mr Kenny is expected to press home how Ireland has become more competitive, recent figures paint a less flattering view of the economy.

Central Statistics Office data shows Ireland is the fifth most expensive country in the EU, with consumers paying 17 per cent more than the EU average. But, as a result of low inflation, its relative expensiveness has improved since 2008, when it had the second highest prices in the EU at 30 per cent above average.

The productivity of the Irish workforce was above the EU average, the report found. Ireland’s GDP per capita was the fourth highest in the EU at 27 per cent above average.

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