Time to nourish Ireland’s relationship with the United States
US multinationals spending €6.3bn on goods and services from Irish businesses annually
Just weeks before the Covid crisis hit Ireland, chief executive of the American Chamber of Commerce Mark Redmond in conversation with EU commissioner Phil Hogan at the Shaping the Future of Transatlantic Trade conference.
From the Proclamation of the Republic to the programme for government and many significant documents in between, Ireland’s relationship with the United States has always featured.
In the new programme for government, it speaks about strengthening that relationship even further and talks about the potential Ireland has to be a really strong bridge between the US and European Union.
It was this that inspired the name of an American Chamber of Commerce report entitled Make the Bridge Stronger, which makes recommendations to government that, if put in place, will help protect what Ireland already has, while seeking further opportunities.
Mark Redmond, chief executive of the American Chamber of Commerce, explains some of the recommendations.
“We would like to see the government appoint an inward investment task force, that would be led by the taoiseach’s department, and would focus on the opportunities for Ireland to attract more inward investment but also the need to protect the inward investment we already have. Other countries are competing to draw that away from us. We are suggesting that taskforce be guided by a clear roadmap that seeks out Ireland’s ambition in relation to being a location of choice for inward investment. The programme for government suggests an SME taskforce and we would suggest multinational representation on the SME taskforce and SME representation on the inward investment taskforce. We strongly believe these are two totally integrated parts of our economy. US multinationals spend €6.3 billion on buying goods and services from Irish businesses every year, so they are inextricably linked.
“The National Competitiveness Council has identified productivity growth in the multinational sector as so much stronger – 6.1 per cent in 2017 – compared to the rest of the Irish economy, which is 0.6 per cent . We suggested a nationwide programme of upskilling and skills transfer in the area of productivity between the multinational sector and the SME sector.
“Meanwhile, there is a real opportunity for Ireland to become a global leader in all things digital. We’ve seen how people responded to moving to a virtual way of working, particularly those who are working from home. There’s an ambition that a lot more of the public service will work remotely in the future and we’re seeing that a lot in the business sector. This brings into sharp focus things like broadband – and they’re going to accelerate its roll out. This is essential for small businesses. We also need a step change in how the public service provides services, for example passport and revenue services – because it’s patchy. We are calling for a cross-departmental action plan to really digitise public service in Ireland.
“Think of the volume of transactions being done online now and all of the personal data being shared, as well as the unbelievable concentration of global financial services companies here and the fact Ireland hosts 30 per cent of the EU data, we’ve got to be best in class in terms of cybersecurity – so we’re calling for a very impactful strategy for Ireland around this.
“A lot of infrastructure projects that have been delayed, for example the Cork to Limerick motorway, Cork to Ringaskiddy motorway or the A5 up to Donegal- these have been so long in discussion but with broadband being rolled out, it is time to move. During the Covid crisis we saw how quickly we could move, let’s now bring that energy and speed to how we conduct our national business going forward.
“Many of these are all quality-of-life things. Because of the crisis and working from home people now realise how much of their days were spent commuting, so this has to change. There needs to be availability to affordable and quality rental accommodation, with a blend of social, student and senior citizen accommodation on offer – that’s critical to economic recovery. Healthcare and access to a good choice of schools should be part of the deliberations of the taskforce. Ireland must be seen as not just a good place to do business but also a great place to live.
“Finally in terms of sustainability, we must meet our obligations to get to carbon neutrality and an importance must be placed on an education ecosystem that is appropriately funded that will help us to continue to grow the kind of talent needed.”