Ireland key for US, says IDA

The IDA and business group Ibec reaffirmed Ireland’s importance to the US after President Donald Trump again questioned the reasons so many American companies have bases outside the US, and mentioned Ireland by name.

It is not the first time Mr Trump singled out Ireland. On the campaign trail last year, both he and Hillary Clinton questioned areas of the Irish tax regime that helped encourage US companies to provide up to 150,000 jobs in technology and pharmaceutical plants here.

But Mr Trump made the comments as a number of leading US business leaders, including the CEOs of drugs giant Merck, sports apparel maker Under Armour, and chip manufacturer Intel, stepped down as advisers, with some citing the president’s remarks on the weekend violence in Charlottesville.

At a press conference late on Tuesday, Mr Trump took a swipe at US firms for their overseas investments, and mentioned Ireland. “You have to bring it back to this country, you can’t do it in Ireland and all of these other places. You have to bring this work back to this country so that American workers can benefit,” he said. Mr Trump has long pledged a so-called America First policy.

Ireland is in the firing line because it attracts an outsized share of all the US investments in the EU. Mr Trump has also pledged to slash the US corporation tax rate to 15%, and wants to lure the €2.4 trillion that US companies hold offshore.

But the IDA said Ireland is a lynchpin for US companies in Europe. “Ireland plays a prominent role in US globalisation. US companies who come to Ireland come due to the ease of access to the European and global markets. They’ve been attracted and operating for 60 years, developing long and enduring commercial ties, and there’s no reason to believe they’ll stop now,” said executive director Mary Buckley.

She said US companies choose Ireland for a variety of reasons, not just for the country’s tax regime and other incentives such as research and development and ‘knowledge box’ tax credits.

Ibec said Ireland has little to fear from the president’s latest comments. And Seamus Coffey, chair of the Irish Fiscal Advisory Council, described Mr Trump’s comments as “loose talk”.

“I would not read a whole lot into it,” he said. Mr Coffey has written a report on Ireland’s tax regime for the Department of Finance.

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