Eli Lilly decision on €200m plan ‘under review’

Fears that pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly’s decision to postpone a €200m investment in Kinsale, Co Cork are a reaction to US President Donald Trump’s protectionism are overstated, according to a leading economist.

An Eli Lilly spokesperson confirmed to the Irish Examiner that a final decision on whether to proceed with the proposed €200m investment in upgrading its Kinsale facility was now under review, as reported by The Sunday Business Post.

An eventual decision will be made by Lilly’s global board at the “appropriate stage of the process”, the spokesperson said.

The decision sparked concern among political and business leaders that foreign direct investment, which is crucial to the economy and labour force, could be under threat from Trump’s stated ‘America First’ policy.

Trump recently hosted a number of pharmaceutical company bosses at the White House, while he has been belligerent on social media towards companies that relocate from the US to countries such as Mexico.

However, UCC economist Declan Jordan said that it was likely to be “prudence and caution first” from Eli Lilly’s management that led to the decision, not fear of the Trump administration.

“I think we are overplaying the risk. We don’t exactly know why the decision was made.

“In general, we have a very good value proposition for foreign direct investment in terms of workforce, access to Europe, etc. We are still bringing in far more jobs than we are losing and there is no reason to think that will change,” said Dr Jordan.

He said that high-profile casualties like HP Inc in Leixlip, Co Kildare, last week were as a result of business changing, not American policy.

“It is awful for the families concerned but the bigger picture is that their business changed. I imagine it is Eli being cautious and not fearful.

"Foreign direct investment has changed from manufacturing in the 1980s to R&D and IT, where we excel. That won’t change for companies that are firmly embedded here,” he said

However Fianna Fáil spokesperson for enterprise, Niall Collins, said it could have a “chilling effect”. He said the St Patrick’s Day visit to the White House was of special significance this year because of the uncertainty being created by President Trump.

“I am hearing unofficially of many decisions like Eli Lilly’s being postponed. It is a huge worry.

“Going to the White House on March 17 is not to everyone’s liking but you have to take every opportunity you get. There is Irish livelihoods at stake,” he said.

Meanwhile, one of Cork’s indigenous success stories, Dan and Linda Kiely’s Voxpro, is poised for a €30m injection from investors to fund international growth.

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