Trading partners wanted, apply within…..

In the past twelve months, politics has changed the world utterly and impacted directly on the trading potential of Ireland. Ireland makes do as being a small, open economy, seen as a stepping stone into the European Union.

The top export destinations of Ireland are the United States ($28.5B), the United Kingdom ($19.2B), Belgium-Luxembourg ($18.2B), Germany ($10.8B) and France ($7.98B).

Concluding a free trade deal between the EU and the USA remains a key priority of the European Commission, however, the election of Donald Trump and his stridently isolationist policies will seriously impact upon this priority. After 15 rounds of negotiations, the proposed Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) is now unlikely to ever be agreed.

When it comes to trading relations with the UK, the looming Brexit negotiations will define these going forward and while there is a general aspiration to maintain as free a trading relationship as is possible, it is unlikely that this relationship will ever be as easy as the current relationship. While all current trading relations are carried out within the EU’s single market, any future trade deal will not be directly between Ireland and the UK but through an EU-UK deal.

These two markets are vital to the Irish economy and any threats are obviously worrying. That said, the emergence of Trump and the dawning of the Brexit era must now force Ireland, through its membership of the EU, to find more trading partners and to take advantage of possible new markets.

The two most recent trade deals concluded by the EU with Canada and South Korea have the potential to be highly beneficial to Ireland. These two agreements provide a handy model for the EU to pursue more and more trade deals with new partners.

I am using this article as an introduction to a series of articles I hope to write in the coming weeks looking at possible new trading opportunities for Ireland and the EU

Already, in response to Brexit, both Enterprise Ireland and the IDA have increased both their presence and reach across the world but much of this work could be enhanced through the signing of newer and better trade deals by the EU.

Initial discussions and reviews have already been held by EU negotiators with representatives from the governments of countries such as Indonesia, Malaysia, Vietnam, Australia and many more while there is potential for ever more cooperation with partners located closer to home such as Georgia, Turkey and the states of the Western Balkans.

Brexit and Trump both present challenges, Ireland and the EU now need to turn these challenges into opportunities.

Senator Neale Richmond is the Government spokesman on EU Affairs in Seanad Éireann and Chairman of the new Seanad Brexit Committee.