There can be no denying that the Irish economy has benefited hugely from foreign direct investment, particularly from the US. The statistics speak for themselves; today there are 700 US companies with Irish operations directly employing 165,000 people. But, the historical economical and political US-Irish relationship works both ways. With Murphys, Kennedys and O’Neills making their presence known in boardrooms the length and breadth of the 50 States, Ireland is well represented in the highest echelons on US soil. Likewise, the statistics on that side of the Atlantic speak for themselves; there are also 700 Irish companies with operations in the US who employ 100,000 US citizens.
Recent changes to the political environment in the form of US protectionism has undoubtedly threatened our status as the location of choice for US companies, making up 12.1% of US FDI investment into Europe despite accounting for just 1% of the entire European economy. At a time of green shoots growth in the aftermath of one of the worst recessions the State has known, this hard won reputation in now in jeopardy.
Speaking at the Boston College Ireland Business Council symposium, John Harthorne, CEO MassChallenge described protectionism as grabbing the largest slice of the pie. The responsibility of leadership should be to increase the size, not of the slice, but of the pie itself.
So, what can business leaders do? Well, of course we can leave it to the Government and State agencies to do their job, or else we can get out there ourselves and deliver the message that Ireland is still a great place to do business.
That is exactly what Ireland Gateway to Europe did on Wednesday April 11, 2018, when a delegation of more than 40 Irish business leaders arrived in Washington to deliver the message that Ireland’s trade partnership with the US is stronger than ever, is truly bilateral and that Ireland remains the location of choice for FDI in Europe.
Ireland Gateway to Europe met with their US counterparts and political representatives on Capitol Hill with the purpose of strengthening existing business relationships and create new ones.
This initiative is a not-for-profit annual trade mission made up of professional advisory firms who travel the US annually to provide a secure resource network for business expansion to help US investment succeed in setting up operations in Ireland.
Founded in 2012 as a response to the economic challenges at that time of global recession, Ireland Gateway to Europe is now in its seventh year of US, UK and global trade missions. Ireland has traditionally enjoyed a particularly strong business, cultural and political relationship with the US. However, in light of the recent announcements of trade tariffs, data privacy, immigration and other protectionist policies, our concern is that there may be a perception that Irish-US trade linkages may have subsequently diminished. The fact of the matter is that the transatlantic economy grew stronger, not weaker over the past year, as did Irish -US trade with US exports to Ireland up 9% and imports to Ireland up 6%.
While the Washington mission was the focal point of the 2018 trade mission, the second leg of the trip saw the group travel to Boston to engage directly with the US business community at the stateside launch of the transatlantic Boston College Ireland Business Council (BCIBC).
Having launched this side of the Atlantic in Dublin last October, the US BCIBC launch took the form of a Global Leadership Symposium where US CEOs met with their Irish counterparts. The event looked at Global Leadership, where a panel of global CEOs discussed how they, as a transatlantic leadership community, can create opportunities against the backdrop of economic challenges.
The purpose of the BCIBC is to establish new, and strengthen existing, transatlantic business ties between the two countries, and it is designed to enhance transatlantic business between the US and Ireland through creating connections that allow for entrepreneurial ventures to grow and prosper.
The Global Leadership Symposium is one of a series of planned BCIBC CEO Exchange events that will take place twice annually over the coming years, both in Ireland and in the US. The nest event is scheduled for Dublin this coming October.
Founded by the Global Leadership Institute, Boston College, and Ireland, Gateway to Europe, and Chaired by Neil Naughton of GlenDimplex, the main aim of the BCIBC is to bring influential business leaders from both communities together once a year in Dublin and in Boston to create one deeply connected transatlantic trade artery.
By establishing the BCICB, the tight commercial and social bonds we share with the US can be strengthened and build upon bilaterally, business to business, in spite of any potential external or internal protectionist political policies. It’s widely known that cultural ties between Massachusetts and Ireland are deep but possibly lesser known are the strength of economic ties with 11,000 people employed by Irish companies there and Ireland being the 6th largest exporter from MA.
With threats from the uncertainty of the Brexit situation ringing in our ears from the East and murmurings of protectionism coming from the West, Ireland is again in a unique position to act as the economic transatlantic hub.
What will the future hold? As it stands nobody knows for certain, but the community of transatlantic business leaders has a collective, critical role to play to ensure the future foundation of business relations is maintained for generations to come.
Those business relationships benefit both Ireland and the US. Let’s both grow our slices of the pie by growing the pie itself.