Irish trade hits record €842bn despite Covid and Brexit challenges

Minister warns against complacency despite strong exports performance

The Republic’s trade with the rest of the world topped €840 billion last year despite Covid-19 curbs, Brexit and global tensions, a new report states.

The Government’s Trade and Investment Report for 2021 shows that strong exports aided the Republic’s performance.

The figures show that the Republic’s trade hit a record €842 billion last year, with exports accounting for €451 billion of that total.

Robert Troy, Minister for Trade Promotion, said the Republic achieved this despite a difficult environment and continuing global challenges. These included Brexit, which became a reality in 2021, trade tensions, tax challenges and disruption from the Covid-19 pandemic, which broke out the previous year.


“Our ability to avoid a recession in the wake of the pandemic was driven largely by our ability to attract investment and trade goods and services internationally,” said Mr Troy.

This “resilience” allowed the State to continue spending on services and infrastructure, and would remain vital as the Republic navigated global uncertainty, he said.

The report shows that the EU and US remain the Republic’s key trading partners. Almost one-third of the €165 billion worth of goods that the Republic exported last year went to the US.

Germany was the next biggest customer, buying 10.7 per cent, while other EU states, including Belgium, France and the Netherlands also featured on this list. Britain accounted for 8.7 per cent of the total, putting it in third place.

Medical and pharmaceutical goods accounted for 38 per cent of exported goods from the Republic last year, while organic chemicals amounted to 16 per cent, the figures show.

The total value of these goods sold abroad last year came to €89 billion, more than half of all exports.

US and Europe

Dairy products and meat combined accounted for 4 per cent of the total, as did medical devices.

Collectively EU states accounted for the biggest share of goods sold to the Republic last year, with imports from there totalling €34 billion from a total of €103 billion.

The US was the biggest single seller of goods to the Republic, accounting for 17 per cent or €18 billion of the total.

Aircraft and parts were the largest single category, amounting to 14 per cent. Organic chemicals followed at 10 per cent, while medical and pharmaceutical came third at 9 per cent.

The Republic exported €286 billion worth of exports last year, its highest yet, while it imported €289 billion, the report shows.

“Computer services” accounted for almost 60 per cent of this, increasing €36 billion last year to €170 billion.

Mr Troy said the Republic could not afford to be complacent, despite 2021′s strong performance. He said that problems with supplies, rising energy costs, mainly a result of the war in Ukraine, and climate change presented challenges to the Republic’s trade.

The Government is organising a conference on Tuesday that will focus on strengthening existing trade and finding more overseas markets for Irish goods and services.

Barry O'Halloran

Barry O'Halloran

Barry O’Halloran covers energy, construction, insolvency, and gaming and betting, among other areas