Ireland's economic relationship with the United States is a two-way process, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has stressed, as he highlighted the employment created by Irish firms in America.
Speaking at an Enterprise Ireland event in San Francisco, Mr Varadkar said he expects further investment by Irish firms into the United States. "The US accounts for around 70 per cent of all inward investment into Ireland, " he said, "There are over 550 IDA-supported US companies in Ireland, employing approximately 140,000 people."
His comments come against a backdrop of growing unease in the United States about US multinationals moving their operations outside of America, with US president Donald Trump singling out Ireland's corporate tax regime for criticism.
Mr Varadkar met representatives from more than 30 companies during his three-day trade visit to the West Coast of the United States including Facebook which announced plans to create several hundred jobs in Ireland by the end of next year.
Martin Shanahan, chief executive of the IDA, said that he does not expect proposals unveiled this week to cut the US corporate tax rate to 20 per cent, to negatively affect US foreign direct investment into Ireland. He said the three-day trade mission had "reinforced the commitment" of tech companies to Ireland.
“We’ve had extraordinarily positive engagement from all the companies we have met. We have had direct commitments from companies like Facebook, but there has been very positive engagement from potential clients. Some of those will lead to investment over the coming weeks and months.”
Mr Shanahan was speaking as cloud-computing company Twilio announced it is establishing its EMEA headquarters in Dublin, creating 100 jobs. However, doubts about Apple's commitment to building a €850 million data centre in Athenry have intensified after the company's chief executive Time Cook failed to give Mr Varadkar a commitment about the project during a meeting at Apple's headquarters in California on Thursday.
While much of the focus of Mr Varadkar’s three-day trip was on business and investment, he also met with representatives of the Irish community. On Thursday, Mr Varadkar was awarded the freedom of the city at an event in San Francisco City Hall as he marked the connections between Ireland and America over the centuries.
Mr Varadkar also paid tribute to the statue of Harvey Milk in City Hall, the first openly gay official in California who was shot dead in 1978. Speaking after he visited the memorial, he said that Mr Milk was someone who believed that “hope was never silent” and that the progress that has been made in the United States, in Ireland, and around the world “speaks louder than any words”.
“Next year is the 40th anniversary of his assassination, and we best honour his memory by living up to his message of tolerance, and respect, and dignity,” he said.
In a wide-ranging speech to members of the Irish and business community, Mr Varadkar highlighted the connections between Ireland and San Francisco, including former president Douglas Hyde’s visit to the city in 1906.
He noted that, throughout the years, the city has had many mayors of Irish descent, including Frank McCoppin from Longford in the 19th century and Patrick McCarthy from Limerick, the city’s 26th mayor.
Presenting Mr Varadkar with the key to the city, Mayor Ed Lee said "you are always welcome here", as he praised the contribution made by Irish people to the city for decades.