Finance Minister Michael Noonan has flown to the US to hold crisis talks with leading Irish-based multi-national firms as fears grow of an exodus of jobs from Ireland under Donald Trump’s presidency.
Mr Noonan last night flew out for a week-long series of meetings in Washington DC and Silicon Valley in California amid increasing concern over how the incoming US president’s corporate tax regime will impact on this country.
The trip was scheduled before Mr Trump’s election win and officially involves Mr Noonan meeting US Treasury, IM,F and World Bank representatives for an update on the impact of Brexit, after he was unable to attend a previous event as it clashed with the budget.
However, the Department of Finance stressed last night that Mr Noonan will also use the trip to “highlight Ireland’s enduring investment appeal in the US” and will “meet with a number of the large US companies based in Ireland” which are facing increasing pressure to return jobs to the US.
While a spokesperson declined to name the companies he will meet, US technology and IT powerhouses such as Google, Apple, Facebook, and LinkedIn all have bases here, where they employ thousands of people and are central to ours tentative economic recovery.
In a statement last night, Mr Noonan said he is meeting officials and companies to “emphasise” that, “as a common law, English-speaking, and business-friendly jurisdiction, we will continue to be an attractive destination for US companies”.
News of the Finance Minister’s trip — which comes just a month before Taoiseach Enda Kenny makes a similar US visit — emerged as a close financial adviser to Mr Trump’s successful election campaign repeated his view that the incoming US president will slash corporate taxes and force foreign-based US firms to return home.
On RTÉ Radio, Stephen Moore said Mr Trump wants to “emulate” Ireland’s 12.5% corporate tax regime and cut the equivalent rate in the US to as low as 15%.
“We want to emulate Ireland,” said Mr Moore. “You have one of the lowest, if not the lowest, business taxes in the world. We want to be competitive with Ireland.
“We’re very excited about this idea and we do think a lot of companies that have left the US will come back. They will come back from China, Canada, Mexico, Ireland. We learned it from Ireland.”
Although Mr Moore has not been appointed to any post-election adviser position as yet, Mr Trump has repeatedly said he will reduce corporate tax from 35% to 15%-20% within 100 days of entering office.
In recent days, several Government ministers have moved to calm fears over the potential impact such a move could have on this country, with Public Expenditure Minister Paschal Donohoe stressing last week he does not believe jobs will be lost.
IDA Ireland chief executive Martin Shanahan repeated the view last Friday, saying he does not expect to see a “flood” of companies departing, while Central Bank governor Philip Lane similarly sought to downplay concerns.
However, despite the positive take being echoed by Foreign Affairs Minister Charlie Flanagan, who said at the weekend that Mr Trump will be a “friend” to Ireland, the fact that Mr Kenny and opposition leaders last week backed down on previous accusations of racism and sexism against Mr Trump underlines the concern of his election’s potential impact here.
Meanwhile, Jobs Minister Mary Mitchell O’Connor will travel this week to Japan and China in a bid to encourage fresh investment in this country, while Mr Kenny will meet Northern Ireland first minister Arlene Foster tomorrow for post-Brexit protection talks.
EU foreign ministers also held an emergency meeting last night on the impact of Mr Trump’s election.
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