State visit inspires British-Irish Chamber of Commerce
Published 18/05/2011 | 05:00
Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore and UK foreign secretary William Hague last night launched the first British-Irish Chamber of Commerce at an event in Dublin.
It was the first visible result of the visit by Queen Elizabeth.
More than 300 business leaders attended a packed event to launch the group.
The Tanaiste said the new group is about shaping the next phase of relations between Britain and Ireland, in contrast to other more symbolic elements of the queen's state visit.
He said two-way trade between the countries is worth €1bn per week.
Mr Hague said establishing the group is long overdue.
"Britain exports more to Ireland than to India, Russia and China combined," he said.
Despite the uniquely long established trading connections the new group is the first such UK/Ireland business initiative.
Ireland is already home to the high-profile American Chamber of Commerce in Ireland -- which represents large multi-nations.
There are also Irish-Arab, Irish-French, and Irish-German Chambers.
The new business group has 22 founding members. The founding members are a mix of Irish and UK companies, including Irish exporters like CRH, Diageo and Greencore.
It also includes UK companies operating here such as Ulster Bank, Marks & Spencer and Aviva.
Fergal Naughton of Glen Dimplex is the interim president of the organisation. Peter Byrne is the acting CEO.
The UK is Ireland's second biggest export market, after the US , buying €13.5bn worth of Irish goods.
More surprisingly, Ireland is also a major UK market -- taking the fifth biggest share of UK exports of any country. Last year trade between the two countries was worth €28bn, according to the Central Statistics Office.
The newly launched group aims to boost trading links between the two countries.
It also hopes to promote the activities of the British community in Ireland and the Irish community in Britain.
The event was hosted by Price Waterhouse Coopers at the accountancy firm's Dublin headquarters.