Irish presidency of EU to forge closer trade links with US, vows Taoiseach


THE IRISH presidency of the European Union will be used to build closer trade links between Europe and the United States, the Taoiseach has pledged.

“I strongly believe that agreement on a comprehensive trade agreement between the United States and the European Union would take this relationship on to a new level,” said Mr Kenny. “I will be aiming to make as much progress towards this goal as possible as Ireland assumes the presidency of the European Union in January.”

He was speaking at the Mayo Society’s annual ball in Cleveland, Ohio, which attracted more than 700 Irish-Americans, many of whom claim Irish roots.

The Taoiseach spent the weekend visiting the city and Philadelphia as part of a two-day trip to promote business and tourism links between the US and Ireland.

He paid tribute to the close relationship between both countries, and hoped this would remain the case into the future.

“The Irish-American relationship is more than one of friendship. It’s one of family. And in times of difficulty family stands together. America has stood by Ireland in its recent difficulties. We are now making steady progress towards economic sovereignty though the period ahead remains challenging.”

He said Ireland was moving steadily in the right direction after a difficult period. Competitiveness, compared to its trading partners, had improved by more than 20 per cent since 2009, he added,while the economy had returned to modest growth. A strong export performance meant Ireland’s balance of payments with the rest of the world had moved into surplus for the first time in a decade.

“It’s expected to remain in surplus . . . Ireland is paying its way,” said the Taoiseach.

Earlier in the weekend, Mr Kenny took a number of wide-ranging questions at a meeting of the Cleveland Club, a long-running institution known as the city’s “citadel of free speech”.

Asked what the chances of a reunification of Ireland were by 2016 – the 100th anniversary of the Easter Rising – Mr Kenny said it would not happen by then and said the emphasis was now on cross-Border co-operation.

“It won’t happen by then, but I do see a time when that will happen . . . which would require a referendum of the people, North and South, on the same day at some future point. For now, it is the sharing of experience, talent and moving on with the development of the island of Ireland. And that’s where our focus is.”