Pharmaceutical giant Merck’s announcement of 330 jobs for Cork and Carlow is evidence that multinationals’ fear of US president Donald Trump’s policies are easing — but there could be a threat to Ireland looming from French president Emmanuel Macron, an economist has warned.
UCC economics lecturer Declan Jordan said the decision by Merck — which is known as MSD in Europe — to invest €280m in its manufacturing bases in Cork and Carlow was evidence that fear of Mr Trump’s protectionist rhetoric was overblown.
Mr Jordan said the creation of 210 jobs in Cork and 120 in Carlow by MSD Ireland showed it was back to business as usual in Europe for multinationals who saw Ireland as a gateway to the continent.
MSD Ireland has 500 employed in Brinny and has been one of the area’s biggest employers for 35 years.
Fellow pharma giant Eli Lilly recently confirmed it would be proceeding with a €200m expansion near Kinsale, having put it on hold in the direct aftermath of Mr Trump’s election to the White House — a sign fears had subsided, Mr Jordan said.
However, he warned that Mr Macron could upset the apple cart for foreign direct investment in Ireland if he pursued the implementation of the Common Consolidated Corporate Tax Base (CCCTB), which aims to share out the spoils of European corporation tax.
The CCCTB proposal has faced fierce resistance in Ireland, with leaders insisting it could cost the country 50% of its current corporation tax base.
Mr Jordan said: “We are not overly reliant on foreign direct investment but it is a very important part of our economy. We tend to go over the top when we hear rhetoric such as that from Mr Trump.
"However, he is just another factor we have to contend with and I am confident we can overcome that. I am more wary of Mr Macron. The CCCTB is a bigger risk than Mr Trump.”
Mr Jordan said it was important the Government “did not rest on its laurels and become complacent” as the threat of Brexit loomed.
There was more good news on the jobs front as outdoor clothing firm Regatta Great Outdoors announced 100 jobs in Dublin, Galway, and Waterford. The jobs will be filled in the next 12 months.
In Sligo, global healthcare company Abbott will relocate its Irish nutritional devices business from its existing base to a new, purpose-built IDA Ireland advance technology building.
The move will see a combined investment of almost €10m and will join manufacturing and business support within one building.
“The good and bad times go in natural cycles,” said Mr Jordan.
“It may be lots of job announcements and investments today, which is fantastic — but it was job losses in recent years. The important thing is to not get carried away by either and make sure we take our opportunities when they come, especially in relation to Brexit. I maintain there is lots of opportunity for Ireland in relation to Brexit.”
Newly elected Cork Chamber president Bill O’Connell said the MSD announcement was evidence that Cork was still a destination par excellence for the pharma industry.
“We have a unique business environment, exceptional quality of life and highly educated workforce, and we work hard to ensure that this is furthered and maintained,” he said.
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