Remarks by Minister Cowen at Silicon Valley, California
The business connections between Ireland and the United States are immensely important for both our countries. The United States is the most important source of inward investment to Ireland: this is significant not just for jobs, but for the modernisation of our technology and business practices. Our close partnership makes absolute sense for both of us: in Ireland, the US finds a competitive, business friendly, English speaking gateway to the immense European single market. And the traffic is not just one way. Irish companies like CRH and the Kerry Group are growing investors in the US. We import and export a wide range of each other=s goods and services. American tourists remain at the heart of our hospitality business B but increasing numbers of Irish people come to visit Disneyworld or the Golden Gate.
I think what underlies our economic relationship is that ultimately we feel at ease with one another. The historic and human bonds between Ireland and the United States were forged in times of political upheaval and economic crisis. As they have developed over the years, Ireland has never lost sight of what America has meant for generations of our people. That basic human sympathy has helped to drive the irreplaceable US contribution to our peace process. We have together lived through good times and bad. Irish people have a particular sense of affinity with America as a recent survey of all European countries underlined. That emotional tie is nourished afresh in every year and in each generation B whatever the circumstances of the day, it is powerful and enduring, and indeed what we are celebrating at this special season.
Irish/U.S. Trade Pattern
The United States is the world=s largest trading nation. But more directly relevant and critical for us in Ireland, it is our second largest export market, and also our largest source of inward investment.
Provisional figures for 2002 show that Ireland=s exports to the U.S. totalled i16.5 billion, a significant 5% increase over the previous year. This was double the total imports to Ireland from the US (i8.1 billion) for the same period. It is particularly worth noting that the continued growth of our exports across the Atlantic is being made against a background where, until only six years ago, we had a very substantial trade deficit with the U.S.
Despite a somewhat depressed U.S. economy, the American market continues- and will continue - to be of enormous potential for Irish companies. It is, for instance, the principal market for Irish software and services companies, taking 40% of their total exports. Equally, and perhaps even more encouraging, our small and medium sized indigenous companies (SMEs) - stretching from consumer merchandise to providers of high-tech business solutions - reported record sales in the Americas in 2001. And, against a difficult background, a growth of 12% across all sectors is expected for 2002. Or to put these figures in an equally meaningful way: at the beginning of 2002, there were over 800 Enterprise Ireland client companies actively exporting to the Americas, mostly to the U.S. There is no reason why this achievement cannot be significantly developed and strengthened across all sectors in the coming years. The Government, both through targeted visits by the Taoiseach, the Tánaiste and individual Ministers, and in our support for the invaluable work of Enterprise Ireland, assisted by the Embassy and Consulates, will actively promote this effort in every possible way.
US Investment in Ireland
The U.S. is our largest source of inward investment, accounting for more than half of our total foreign direct investment. There are almost 600 U.S. firms in Ireland, employing over 96,000 people in permanent positions. Equally critical to the economy, these companies account for over one third of Irish exports, almost half of employment in foreign firms, and approximately 30% of total manufacturing employment. The key investment sectors are electronics, software, teleservices, pharmaceuticals, healthcare and financial services. As a result, Ireland is the market leader as a green field location in Europe for many of these sectors. There are also 200 U.S. institutions with a presence in our Financial Services Centre, and the Government hope to see this grow even further in the years ahead.
Irish Investment in the U.S.
The investment traffic is also flowing strongly in the opposite direction. The principal destination for outward direct investment for Irish companies in the 1990s was the United States. By the end of 1999, it was estimated that Irish-owned companies in the U.S. employed almost 65,000 people. These companies were concentrated in insurance, financial services, building materials, food ingredients and software.
Spirit of Ireland Award
The strong relationship between Silicon Valley and Ireland is most positively reflected in the annual, prestigious Spirit of Ireland Award. I warmly congratulate the Tánaiste on being honoured with this award last week for her outstanding work in developing and strengthening Ireland=s relationship with this unique and hugely important part of the United States. And, as the Tánaiste announced last week, our links are being further strengthened by the decision of Google, the internet search engine company, to set up a European hub in Dublin. This welcome development links directly into the Government=s strategy of establishing Ireland as a major European digital media and internet hub.