Brief for Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade

Business priorities and solutions



1. Protect and prepare Ireland for a UK exit from the EU


Why?

Brexit will fundamentally impact Irish trade, tourism and investment patterns resulting in opportunities and threats to the Irish business model. Business is concerned about the competitiveness implications of potential new border and customs procedures, which is likely to be more severe in a ‘hard Brexit’ scenario. Irish business should not be unduly disadvantaged vis-à-vis competitors in terms of regulatory stance, tax policy or the availability of infrastructure.


How? The Minister should:

  • secure commitments in any EU-UK deal that recognise the unique economic and political challenges that Brexit presents to Ireland; put in place a range of contingency measures including provisions on travel and labour market rights, while addressing Ireland’s trade exposure and the challenges presented by the land border with Northern Ireland
  • ensure the EU provides a state-aid framework to enable companies to trade successfully through Brexit’s disruption, retain UK market share, and diversify
  • ensure, through work with EU colleagues and the UK, comprehensive transitional arrangements to avoid a precarious ‘cliff edge’ scenario, and allow businesses time to adapt to a new trading relationship
  • ensure a level playing field in relation to Ireland’s business tax offering for indigenous business. This is in the context of a raised possibility of Irish SMEs servicing the UK market from within because of potential trade restrictions post-Brexit, and the more preferable tax treatment of SMEs in the UK
  • collaborate with colleagues in the EU and the UK to ensure  the closest possible EU-UK relationship post-Brexit
  • ensure a smooth and orderly withdrawal of the UK from the EU by working with EU colleagues and the UK to promote a fair financial settlement and a comprehensive agreement on the rights of EU citizens in the UK, and UK citizens in the EU.



2. 
Support diversification and continue to improve access to key priority markets


Why?

Ireland has benefited significantly from globalisation and the global free trade agenda. However in recent years criticism of globalisation has overshadowed the benefits and this has resulted in a pervasive anti-trade rhetoric in many of our trading partners. Maintaining access to existing markets and supporting market diversification will become increasingly important for Irish business facing global uncertainties.


How? The Minister should:

  • maximise access to international markets. This is particularly important to enable industry to reach objectives and targets set out in Enterprise 2025, Food Harvest 2020 and Food Wise 2025
  • continue to build commercial acumen in Ireland’s embassies abroad
  • seek further opening of global markets through their role as chair of Export Trade Council and support Irish business in developing trade through well-coordinated and targeted trade missions.



3. Protect Ireland’s international reputation and promote continued investment by Irish and foreign owned firms


Why?

Through EU membership and the embracing of globalisation, Ireland has been transformed from a small island nation with low economic activity, to a highly competitive country with some of the world’s highest living standards. Ireland’s support of the European Single Market and the internationalisation of business have been transformative for the Irish business community. Ireland’s track record in attracting substance-based corporate investment needs to be highlighted and better explained internationally.


How? The Minister should:

  • promote and explain at an international level Ireland’s track record in attracting substance-based corporate investment
  • ensure optimum conditions, at both national and EU level, for investment
  • work with Cabinet colleagues to secure flexibility in existing EU fiscal rules to allow for infrastructure investment to stimulate growth and competitiveness.



4.      
Safeguard Ireland’s position in the European Union


Why?

In a challenging global environment, the European Commission has launched several papers (and intends to launch more) to generate a discussion both between and within member states on the future of the European Union. It is critical to our competitiveness that this does not lead to a two tier Europe that disadvantages Ireland.


How? The Minister should:

  • support improved cooperation and communication between euro and non-euro member states. A strong and resilient single currency will benefit Europe as a whole, not just the Eurozone countries
  • continue to constructively engage with EU27 partners post Brexit on Irish strategic issues
  • promote positive relations between the EU and the UK post-Brexit
  • coordinate with Cabinet colleagues to secure flexibility in existing EU fiscal rules to allow for infrastructure investment to stimulate growth and competitiveness
  • champion pro-enterprise single market policies, particularly in the digital economy area



5.       Promote the advantages of open, global markets


Why?

Irish business benefits from the interconnected global trading system that has developed in recent decades. However, the protectionist mood that has appeared across the world in recent years is a risk to the Irish business and economic model. Increasingly, populations of western countries are sceptical of globalisation.


How? The Minister should:

  • communicate the benefits of open markets and EU membership at domestic and international level by illustrating the importance of tariff elimination and the removal of trade and investment barriers to Irish economic development
  • establish an eco-system of digital trade. Today many services are provided digitally and hardly any economic activity can be conducted without digital operations in one way or another. Digital trade covers all types of cross-border economic activities
  • resist trade restrictive measures which prohibit cross-border data flows
  • promote open market access for goods and services including through engagement at the OECD, WTO and other international institutions
  • challenge localisation barriers to trade. Many of these non-tariff measures present new and more complex hurdles that preclude businesses from effectively competing in the global markets



6.       Support a robust EU trade policy


Why?

The European Commission has exclusive competence for trade policy of EU member states. A robust EU trade policy enables Irish business to trade with the rest of the world. The EU must remain a champion for free trade, promote the benefits of globalisation and lead the conversation on how to ensure these benefits are understood and felt across society.


How? The Minister should:

  • ensure that Irish business interests are safeguarded in the negotiation of EU free trade agreements (FTAs)
  • support the EU to maintain an ambitious agenda for the conclusion of FTAs
  • promote positive dialogue on free trade domestically.

 


About Ibec

Ibec is Ireland's largest and most influential business representative. We proudly speak on behalf of 7,500 Irish businesses; home grown, multinational, big and small, spanning every sector of the economy and employing 70% of the private sector workforce in Ireland. Together with our 40+ trade associations, we lobby government and policy makers nationally and internationally to maintain a positive climate for business and drive economic growth. Our policy is shaped by our members through the work of our board, national council, policy committees and trade associations.  We regularly produce market leading industry and business events, positions on issues impacting business, economic research, forecasts and analysis. We also provide a wide range of professional services and management training to members on all aspects of human resource management, occupational health and safety, employee relations and employment law.  With 200 staff in 6 offices around Ireland as well as an office in Brussels and connections in the U.K. and Washington, Ibec communicates the Irish business voice to key stakeholders at home and abroad.

 

 

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