Meeting between Noonan and Wilbur Ross fails to go ahead

Noonan plays down concerns at any changes in US tax and trade policy under Trump

Michael Noonan: “What we have done is position ourselves to be the regional centre for Europe”

An expected meeting between Minister for Finance Michael Noonan and US commerce secretary Wilbur Ross did not take place on Friday due to scheduling issues, officials said, as Mr Noonan attended the second day of the IMF Spring Meetings in Washington.

Speaking on Friday morning, Mr Noonan said he expected to meet Mr Ross, a former investor in Bank of Ireland and now a senior figure in the Trump administration, on the fringes of the IMF Spring Meetings. However, the meeting did not take place.

A meeting with IMF managing director Christine Lagarde was expected to proceed as planned later on Friday.

Speaking on the fringes of the IMF meetings, Mr Noonan played down concerns about expected changes in US tax and trade policy under the Trump administration.


The US commerce department, headed by Mr Ross, has begun a country-by-country analysis of countries which run a large trade surplus with the United States, including Ireland.

It is understood that Ireland’s export of pharmaceuticals and medical devices to the United States is the primary driver of Ireland’s $36 billion surplus (€33.6bn) with the United States.

Mr Noonan said he believed that “in the general scheme of things, they will not have many concerns about Ireland”.

Home base

“The way multinationals work is that, as well as having a home base as many of the pharmaceutical companies have, they have regional headquarters as well. And there aren’t circumstances really where any aspect of multinational America is going to produce everything in the United States and export from here.”

He said companies would always have regional centres.

“What we have done is position ourselves to be the regional centre for Europe. For all the reasons that are being recited now on Brexit, we are very confident we will retain that position. We’re English speaking, we’re a common law area, we have the European regulatory regime on pharmaceuticals which would apply to sales right across the EU, and I think that will continue.”

He will also raise currency concerns highlighting the fact that Ireland is tied to the single currency. Germany also runs a high trade surplus with the United States, an issue that was raised by IMF chief Christine Lagarde on the opening day of the Spring Meetings.

Mr Noonan's visit is taking place after Minister of State Dara Murphy held meetings at the US commerce department on Wednesday.

Repatriation of profits

As President Donald Trump ordered the US treasury to undertake a review of financial regulations introduced during the Obama presidency in order to simplify the tax code, Mr Noonan said he expected the US administration to introduce some system to ensure the repatriation of profits to the US following a presentation by US treasury secretary Steve Mnuchin.

“I was convinced after listening to him that they’re going to have an arrangement for the repatriation of profits or some kind of arrangement whereby a charge is made on the profits whether they’re repatriated or not,” he said, noting that he had put less emphasis on the idea of a border adjustment tax on imports which had previously been mooted by the administration.

He also expected a cut in the US corporate tax rate and a reduction in the personal tax rate.

“That group of issues wouldn’t be of be great concern to Ireland because we know that the movement generally internationally is lower corporate tax anyway,” Mr Noonan said.

Mr Noonan met investors and financial media in New York earlier this week, before travelling to Washington.

Central Bank governor Philip Lane is also attending the annual gathering of finance ministers and central bankers.

Suzanne Lynch

Suzanne Lynch

Suzanne Lynch, a former Irish Times journalist, was Washington correspondent and, before that, Europe correspondent