Varadkar to meet Apple executives during US visit

Taoiseach to talk to at least 35 potential and existing investors as part of three-day trip

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar’s first engagement on his three-day trade mission to the US west coast is at Microsoft’s headquarters in Seattle on Wednesday morning.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar’s first engagement on his three-day trade mission to the US west coast is at Microsoft’s headquarters in Seattle on Wednesday morning.

 

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar will meet senior executives from Apple on Thursday as part of a three-day trip to the west coast of the United States.

Mr Varadkar is due to visit Seattle, San Jose and San Francisco in his first official visit to the US as Taoiseach and is also scheduled to meet senior executives from Microsoft, Facebook and Google as well as potential new investors into Ireland.

He is scheduled to meet Apple executives in Silicon Valley on Thursday morning, the first meeting between the Taoiseach and senior Apple officials since the European Commission announced it was referring Ireland to the European Court of Justice for failing to collect €13 billion in state aid from the company.

That the Taoiseach has chosen the west coast as the location for his first visit to the United States is significant.

Ireland’s close relationship with US multinational companies has come into sharp focus under the Trump administration, with president Donald Trump citing Ireland several times in recent months as he denounced US companies for moving jobs and investment overseas. He also erroneously suggested two weeks ago that Ireland was considering cutting its corporate tax rate to 8 per cent, a claim dismissed by Mr Varadkar.

Ireland’s economy depends heavily on US investment, with US companies accounting for about 75 per cent of inward investment in the country in 2015. Companies on the US west coast employ more than 47,000 people in Ireland.

US multinationals are also largely responsible for the annual $36 billion trade surplus in goods that Ireland runs with the US – an imbalance that has caught the eye of the US department of commerce.

Mr Varadkar’s first engagement is at Microsoft’s headquarters in Seattle this morning. Later on Wednesday he will travel to Silicon Valley, where he is due to visit the headquarters of Facebook and Google. Both companies have a significant presence in Ireland.

The Taoiseach will meet at least 35 potential and existing IDA client companies during the three-day visit. IDA chief executive Martin Shanahan is accompanying him.

Mr Varadkar said the trip offered a “valuable opportunity to engage with major business leaders and further strengthen the economic relationship between Ireland and the US”. He pledged to highlight Ireland’s position as “an island at the centre of the world, our strong commitment to EU membership and our status as a gateway for US firms into Europe and other global markets”.

Tax reform

His visit coincides with a decisive week for tax reform in the US as the House of Representatives prepares to unveil its proposed tax reform legislation as early as Wednesday. Among the measures under consideration by the Republican-controlled Congress and the White House are a reduction in the corporate tax rate from 35 per cent to 20 per cent, though there are indications this reduction could possibly be phased in over several years.

Similarly, Republican legislators are seeking to introduce a tax amnesty to encourage US companies harbouring profits offshore to bring those profits back to the US.

The US’s largest tech companies, including Facebook, Google and Twitter, have come under intense public scrutiny in recent days for their potential role in facilitating Russian interference in the 2016 US presidential election.

Senior executives from all three firms began two days of hearings in Washington on Tuesday.