Growing businesses a key pillar of Ireland’s new trade strategy

Ireland’s openness to international trade makes it a key player on the world stage.

While Ireland’s total trade with the world exceeded €840bn, the highest level on record last year, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar, TD, warned that we cannot take this for granted and must work to ensure that we maintain and grow investment in Ireland.

Almost half of Ireland’s workforce – some 1.3m jobs – is underpinned by international trade and to nurture this the Government has revealed a new trade and investment strategy entitled Value for Ireland, Values for the World.

“Unlike other countries, we don’t rely on vast natural resources, such as oil, gas or diamonds for this wealth. Trade is the source of our economic growth”

The key tenets of the strategy including maintaining and enhance Ireland’s competitiveness, to grow Irish-owned business, attract FDI (foreign direct investment); and maintain high standards of living.

The value of an open economy

“Although we have our problems, in a world of nearly two hundred countries, Ireland is consistently ranked in the top ten or twenty in terms of prosperity and high living standards,” Varadkar said.

“Unlike other countries, we don’t rely on vast natural resources, such as oil, gas or diamonds for this wealth. Trade is the source of our economic growth. Our attractiveness as a place to invest and our ability, as part of the EU, to enter and keep international free trade agreements with other countries is the entire basis of our economic model. It’s what has raised our living standards over the years.

“Covid, Brexit, international tax reforms, new technology, the need to take radical action to reduce our emissions and Russia’s decision to invade Ukraine have all caused huge disruption to trade over the past few years and have redefined future risks, challenges and opportunities of doing trade into the future. I’m particularly concerned with the implications these events will have for protectionism, with many using them as an excuse to put up barriers, which would be detrimental for Ireland and I believe quality of life globally.

“This new Strategy is an opportunity for us to look at the changed global landscape and the implications it has for trade. Record levels of trade cannot be taken for granted. Maintaining and expanding global trade in a principled way will continue to be essential to Ireland’s economic wellbeing, living standards and sustainable development,” Varadkar said.

Top actions

The strategy outlines seven top actions, including:

  • Attending to our broader ecosystem to maintain and enhance our competitiveness, to grow Irish-owned business, attract FDI and maintain high standards of living.
  • Establishing an Expert Group on Global Value Chains and Supply Chains to identify global supply chain opportunities and threats. The Group will examine themes such as economic nationalism, open strategic autonomy, and ‘re-shoring’ initiatives. 
  • Launching a Government of Ireland communications campaign to highlight the benefits of international trade and investment to a broader Irish domestic audience and foster a deeper understanding of the important role that trade and investment plays in providing jobs and to promote Ireland’s and the EU’s wider interests, including our values, principles and standards.
  • One ‘whole-of-government’ trade mission annually
  • Making businesses more aware of our network of free trade agreements and tax treaties

“Global events will continue to pose challenges to all of us, but if we maintain our open, pro-trade outlook and continue to grow our global footprint we will be better placed to navigate those challenges,” said Minister of State with responsibility for Trade Promotion, Digital and Company Regulation Robert Troy, TD.

“In the past decade Ireland’s trade in goods and services increased by 171% from €310bn to over €840bn and with this new Strategy and the work of our enterprise agencies we want to see that grow further with particular focus and benefit for our regions.”

John Kennedy
Award-winning editor John Kennedy is one of Ireland's most experienced business and technology journalists.