Wednesday, 20 January 2021

Questions (17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 32)

Neale Richmond

Question:

17. Deputy Neale Richmond asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if he expects exports to the EU to increase in 2021 in view of trade diversification post Brexit; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2524/21]

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Neale Richmond

Question:

18. Deputy Neale Richmond asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the steps being taken to maximise Irish exports to the EU single market post Brexit; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2525/21]

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Neale Richmond

Question:

19. Deputy Neale Richmond asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the markets and industries which are the focus of Irish trade diversification post Brexit; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2526/21]

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Neale Richmond

Question:

20. Deputy Neale Richmond asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the Irish industries that will benefit most from increased trade into the EU Single Market; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2527/21]

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Neale Richmond

Question:

21. Deputy Neale Richmond asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the extent to which exports to the UK are expected to fall in 2021 as compared to 2020; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2528/21]

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Neale Richmond

Question:

32. Deputy Neale Richmond asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the plans that have been made for Irish companies and Irish exports to replace UK exports to the continental EU; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2820/21]

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Written answers (Question to Enterprise)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 17 to 21, inclusive, and 32 together.

The long-term response to Brexit is for companies across all sectors to become more competitive, more innovative and to diversify their export footprint into more international markets. My Department’s 2021 budget allocation of €1.13bn represents an increase of €154 million or 15.9% on the 2020 allocation. This is in addition to €100 million earmarked from the Recovery Fund for Brexit. This is a record allocation and will significantly bolster the capability of our enterprise and regulatory agencies to help businesses examine their Brexit exposure, seek advice, avail of customs training and make plans to protect their business.

In 2015, the value of goods and services imported from the UK to Ireland was €31 bn, which represented 14% of Ireland's total imports that year. In 2019, while the value of goods and services imported from the UK to Ireland had increased to €41 bn, this represented the lower percentage of 11% of Ireland’s total imports in that year. The total value of goods and services imported into Ireland increased from €223 bn in 2015 to €388 bn in 2019.

Similarly, for exports, in 2015 the value of goods and services exported to the UK was €37.2 bn which accounted for 16% of total exports from Ireland. In 2019 the value of exports to the UK had increased to €51.6 bn but this represented the lower percentage of 14% of Ireland’s total exports that year. In the period 2015 to 2019, the value of total exports from Ireland increased by €135 bn or 57%, to a record level of €374bn.

Enterprise Ireland client companies achieved record levels of exports in 2019 of €25.6bn, against the backdrop of Brexit uncertainty. In 2019, the Eurozone region, which is a key focus of Enterprise Ireland’s diversification strategy, saw growth of 15% to €5.65bn, while exports to North America increased from €4.08bn in 2018 to €4.72bn, an increase of 16%. In the same period exports to the UK increased by 2%.

2020 export performance and the outlook for exports to the UK, Eurozone and rest of the world continues to be significantly impacted by both Brexit and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Enterprise Ireland’s ambition for 2021 is to sustain Irish jobs and exports and increase the resilience of the enterprise base with a view to ensuring global exports retain their pre-pandemic, pre-Brexit value of €25.6 bn. The agency’s focus will be on supporting clients to adapt and succeed in a post-Brexit environment, sustaining existing export sales and accelerating the diversification of Irish exports. While the UK will remain a major market for Irish companies, expanding the Irish export market in markets beyond the UK will continue to be a priority.

In recent years the majority of Ministerial-led Trade Missions have taken place to the Eurozone, North America and Asia Pacific, which represented the strongest growth opportunities for Irish companies. These Trade Missions focused 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. In 2020, due to COVID-19 travel restrictions, promotion of our companies abroad continued through the work of our State agencies, and, in particular, their offices located on the ground internationally.

My Department is currently in contact with Enterprise Ireland with a view to developing a Ministerial led Trade Mission Programme for 2021. At this stage, it is envisaged that such a programme will contain a mix of virtual and actual trade missions. At the same time, Enterprise Ireland will continue to support companies to sustain their existing export sales and to increasingly diversify their export markets. This will include strengthening sales and marketing capability of companies, with a particular focus on remote/virtual channels and providing targeted financial and advisory supports to companies adversely impacted upon by COVID-19 and Brexit to support their adaptation to the challenging market environment.

As well as the global efforts supported by our agencies, key to our success in growing exports has been our commitment to trade liberalisation in order to open new markets for our indigenous sectors. 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.