Ibec outlines EU and Irish Trade and Investment priorities in new report

November 15, 2023
  • Sustaining a stable and open trade and investment environment, advancing in the digital decade, and transitioning to a net-zero economy are critical to EU economic prosperity.
  • In 2022, Irish Goods Exports increased by 36.5%, and Services Exports increased by 53.4% since 2019.
  • Germany, Belgium, and the Netherlands are the top three Irish EU trading partners with the USA our top global trading partner.

Ibec, the group that represents Irish business, has outlined key priorities for Irish and EU trade and investment in a new report launched today with Simon Coveney TD, Minister for Enterprise, Trade, and Employment. Against the backdrop of geopolitical upheaval, Ibec emphasised the critical role of openness in strategic autonomy to advance economic resilience and global competitiveness as the EU and Ireland embrace the transition to climate neutrality and the advancement of the digital era.

At the core of Ibec's objectives is a commitment to openness as the driving force behind the EU's position as the world's largest trader of goods and services. According to CSO data contained in the report, Irish goods exports increased by 36.0% since 2019, with Medical & Pharmaceutical Products, Organic Chemicals, Professional, Scientific & Controlling Apparatus among the top exports. Meanwhile, services exports grew by 53.4% during the same period, with Financial Services, Computer Services, and Business services among the top three service exports. The UK and US remain Ireland’s largest trading partners, with Germany, Belgium, and the Netherlands being Ireland’s top EU trading partners.

Speaking about the report, the Director of EU & International Affairs at Ibec, Pat Ivory, said:

“Ibec and Irish business are in agreement on the essential steps needed to foster collaboration between businesses and EU institutions. The shared objective is to achieve economic stability and growth by maintaining a secure and open trade and investment environment, advancing in the digital decade, and transitioning to a net-zero economy. By working hand in hand, the EU and the business community can implement effective policy measures that significantly impact economic and social development on both European and global scales. As this report outlines, our future economic success hinges on a forward-thinking, dynamic EU that welcomes change and aligns with the needs of businesses and citizens. Emphasizing open and rules-based trade, guided by the concept of open strategic autonomy, is key to unlocking substantial economic and social prosperity for businesses, workers, and citizens alike.”

Speaking at the event, Minister for Enterprise, Trade, and Employment Simon Coveney TD said:

“I welcome this report published by IBEC. It reaffirms my belief that Ireland’s prosperity and economic strength has been built upon our advocacy and support of open, rules-based trade, and the importance that we place on the multilateral trading system. Our pro-trade focused position has resulted in Ireland being a leading exporter of cutting-edge technology, pharmaceuticals, and our increasing presence in the services sector, including financial services and digital.

In a challenging geo-political environment with an increase in trade tensions across the globe, the IBEC report highlights how important it is for Ireland and the European Union, to continue to pursue an ambitious and dynamic trade agenda while continuing to underscore the positive impacts of trade and the central role that the World Trade Organisation plays in setting the rules for free and fair trade amongst its members. I’ll have an opportunity to pursue this further when I attend the WTO Ministerial Conference in Abu Dhabi in February next year”.

Also speaking at the event, Barbara Nolan, Head of the European Commission Representation in Ireland, said:

“The success of EU trade policy remains central to both the EU’s and Ireland’s prosperity, and our green transformation. The EU trade agenda is open, strategic and assertive. Digital trade is a key component of it – and it is an area in which is it essential that the EU is a rule-maker, not a rule-taker. The EU has an ambitious agenda for bilateral trade agreements. The EU also remains an ardent supporter of multilateralism and the World Trade Organisation. 56% of our trade is done on the basis of WTO tariffs and the WTO remains the best protection against global economic fragmentation”.

 Among the top priorities highlighted in the report are:

  • Ibec urgently calls for the EU to maintain openness, emphasising its crucial role in strengthening the EU as a top destination for foreign investment. This includes championing a rules-based digital trade framework and remaining open to foreign direct investment at both EU and global levels to enhance European economies.
  • Ibec stresses the need for the EU to advocate strongly for a reformed World Trade Organization (WTO), recognizing the significance of WTO rules and tariffs in nearly 60% of EU trade
  • Ibec underscores the vital role of bilateral trade agreements as key tools for the EU's security, resilience, and prosperity. Emphasising flexibility to adapt to climate neutrality and digitalization, effective implementation is deemed paramount. Additionally, bilateral partnerships are recognized as powerful tools for advancing human rights and climate objectives.
  • Regarding the new trade partnership with the UK, Ibec stresses the need for stable EU-UK political engagement. This is seen as an opportunity to implement the Windsor Framework and enhance relations under the EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement, benefiting economic prosperity and social cohesion.
  • Ibec recognises the central importance of EU-US trade and investment relations in the global economy. Acknowledging Ireland's positive contributions, it urges sustained efforts to identify risks, develop opportunities, and set standards for future trade. The potential of the EU-US Trade and Technology Council is emphasised for supporting trade and investment, including the permanent removal of tariffs and barriers.
  • Ibec outlines the importance of diversifying export and import markets for global prosperity and security. A comprehensive Economic Security Strategy and economic de-risking are deemed necessary to address dependencies and ensure a resilient and sustainable supply of critical raw materials for the green and digital transitions.

Our 'Open, rules-based and digital trade to drive competitiveness' report is available to download here.