I propose to take Questions Nos. 315 and 317 together.
With a small domestic market, further expansion in other markets is essential to our continued economic growth. Overall, export growth in Ireland in recent years has been exceptionally strong and exports continue to contribute positively to growth. According to CSO merchandise trade and balance of payments data, total exports have increased by 58 percent since 2012 to €283.7billion in 2017. The outlook for global economic growth is positive in the short term. According to the OECD March Interim Economic Outlook, the world economy will continue to strengthen over the next two years, with global GDP growth projected to reach almost 4 percent in both 2018 and 2019.
The Government is intensifying its efforts, domestically and internationally, to support companies with a view to mitigating potential negative impacts of Brexit. Government’s national enterprise policy 'Enterprise 2025 Renewed', published in March 2018, was developed specifically through the lens of Brexit, recent international tax developments, the pace of technological advances and changes being introduced under the current US administration. Enterprise 2025 prioritises embedding resilience in the enterprise base, enhancing productivity, delivering quality jobs, promoting collaboration between Irish and foreign owned companies and harnessing the potential of innovation and talent across all regions.
In the 'Building Stronger Business' report, my Department set out a strategy to minimise risks of Brexit and maximise opportunities across four pillars of helping companies to compete, innovate, trade and to negotiate the best outcome for business. It sets out the range of diagnostic, advisory and financial supports that are being made available to companies to help minimise Brexit impacts and target new opportunities. Dedicated measures were announced in Budget 2018, including a new €300 million Brexit loan scheme for businesses and a €25 million Brexit response loan scheme for the agrifood sector. This is in addition to supports for capital investment in the food industry and Bord Bia marketing and promotion activities, amounting to over €50 million in total. The fund of €116 billion announced in Project 2040 for capital investment over the next decade will also allow the State and its agencies to properly plan major infrastructure projects which can accelerate economic growth and mitigate the impact of Brexit.
The Government’s Trade Strategy, ‘Ireland Connected: Trading and Investing in a Dynamic World’, supports an extensive programme of Ministerial-led trade missions, as part of a major drive towards market diversification. This includes markets that are growing and have scale as well as markets where we are already well established but with potential for further growth. We aim by 2020 to increase indigenous exports by Enterprise Ireland supported companies, including food, to reach €26 billion, achieve 80% of indigenous export growth outside of the UK market and secure 900 new foreign direct investments.
Enterprise Ireland delivered an impressive programme of international trade events in 2017, giving Irish companies the opportunity to meet with potential buyers and network with key influencers in countries around the world. In total, 57 internationally focused trade events were organised by Enterprise Ireland in 2017 including ministerial-led trade missions to Canada, Singapore, Japan, the United Arab Emirates, Oman and a major trade programme as part of the State visit to Australia and New Zealand.
In relation to 2018, the programme of ministerial-led trade missions and events has been finalised and published by Enterprise Ireland. Several events have already taken place, including ministerial-led missions to the USA in January, and Mexico and Russia in February. Missions to EU markets will be a priority focus for the 2018 programme, together with missions to key markets where the EU has or is negotiating free trade agreements. As part of the St. Patrick’s Day “Promote Ireland” Programmes, Ministerial visits around the world are organised to ensure that we use this exposure to maximise the promotion of Ireland's trade, tourism and investment interests. The Government has signalled its ambition to further enhance its overseas networks through the Global Footprint 2025 initiative, which aims to double the impact of our overseas presence through an increase in our enterprise agency global footprint and Embassy network.
As well as the global efforts supported by our agencies, key to our success has been our commitment to trade liberalisation in order to open new markets for our indigenous sectors. The EU has successfully concluded a number of important trade agreements with trading partners and is in the process of negotiating or upgrading its agreements with many more. These existing EU Agreements and new trade deals will continue to be very important for Ireland. With a small domestic market, further expansion in other markets is essential to our continued economic growth. In this regard Ireland will continue to support the EU’s ambitious programme of negotiating new Free Trade Agreements opening new markets Irish Firm’s goods and services and increasing export and investment opportunities.
Most recently, the EU–Canada Comprehensive Economic Trade Agreement (CETA) entered into force provisionally from the 21st September 2017. Irish companies may now take advantage of the all important provisions of CETA including the elimination of tariffs on almost all key exports, access to the Canadian procurement market, the easing of regulatory barriers and more transparent rules for market access. CETA presents new opportunities for Irish business and professionals to work and provide services in Canada.
On the 21st April 2018, the EU and Mexico reached an agreement in principle on a new trade agreement that will be part of the broader Global Agreement. The Agreement will provide a platform to increase Irish exports to Mexico where the current value is just over €2 billion per year with total imports of nearly half a billion euros per year. It will further remove industrial tariffs and important agricultural tariffs. This will be significant for Ireland’s important Agri-food sector especially for dairy, pork and poultry products. Ireland is a significant exporter to Mexico of powdered milk and milk derivatives but there are currently significant barriers both to increasing powdered milk exports and to commencing exports of fresh dairy produce. There are many exciting opportunities in Mexico for Irish businesses including manufacturing, automotive, engineering, telecommunications, ICT, aerospace, software and service and manufacturing technology. The Agreement will also open up public procurement markets to Irish businesses and remove technical barriers to trade which will reduce the costs of entry to the Mexican market.
The EU is continuing its negotiations with Mercosur and recently announced the successful conclusion of negotiations of the EU-Japan Economic Partnership Agreement. The agri-food sector, in particular will see benefits from access to Japan’s highly valuable export market, with improved access for beef, pork, cheese and processed agricultural products. In addition the EU’s trade deal with Singapore is hoped to come into force by the end of the year.
During his September 2017 State of the Union address, the President of the European Parliament, Jean-Claude Juncker, proposed opening trade negotiations with Australia and New Zealand. The draft negotiating mandates for Australia and New Zealand are currently being discussed by the Commission and Member States and I expect them to receive Ministerial signoff at the Trade Council of Ministers later this month.
Ireland will continue to support the EU’s ambitious programme of negotiating new FTA’s giving Irish firms expanded market access and a predictable trading environment in third countries. My Department has recently commissioned a study to examine the economic opportunities and impacts for Ireland arising from FTAs, both currently in place and in negotiation. The objective is to deepen our understanding of how Ireland can best take advantage of these opportunities, and ensure that our businesses are prepared to access new markets.