While the UK is and will remain a major market for Irish companies, expanding the Irish export footprint in markets beyond the UK is a key priority. In that context, Enterprise Ireland’s strategy is to support Irish exporters to be more innovative, competitive and market diversified.
The Irish exporting landscape is strong and companies in Ireland are succeeding in winning business worldwide for their products and services. Enterprise Ireland client companies achieved record levels of exports in 2018 of €23.8bn, against the backdrop of Brexit uncertainty. In 2018, the Eurozone region, which is a key focus of Enterprise Ireland’s diversification strategy, saw growth of 7.6% to €4.8bn, with Germany, France and the Netherlands each exceeding €1bn in exports. Exports to North America increased from €3.87bn in 2017 to €4.08bn in 2018, an increase of 5.5%. Our Enterprise agencies are now opening new offices around the world to support our companies in competing and thriving in global markets.
Ministerial-led Trade Missions support the Government's major drive towards market diversification. The majority of trade missions are taking place to the Eurozone, North America and Asia Pacific, which represent the strongest growth opportunities for Irish companies. These Trade Missions focus on promoting the innovative capabilities and competitive offerings of Irish companies to international buyers in sectors including internationally traded services, fintech, high-tech construction, engineering, ICT and lifesciences.
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. The existing suite of EU Free Trade 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 and, in this regard, Ireland will continue to support the EU’s ambitious programme of negotiating new Free Trade Agreements, opening new markets for Irish companies and increasing export and investment opportunities.