Sunday 4 December 2016

EU Commissioner says 'no need to panic' over Donald Trump

Cormac McQuinn and Ralph Riegel

Published 11/11/2016 | 14:25

European Union Agriculture Commissioner Phil Hogan. Photo: Reuters/Francois
European Union Agriculture Commissioner Phil Hogan. Photo: Reuters/Francois

European Commissioner Phil Hogan has said "there's no need to panic yet" over the feared threat to jobs by the election of Donald Trump as US President.

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He said the bosses of US companies are "hard-nosed business people" who see the benefits of investing in Ireland.

Mr Hogan's remarks come after Mr Trump's economic adviser Stephen Moore warned that a "flood of companies" will leave Ireland under the new administration's plans to reduce US corporation tax.

The agriculture commissioner said he saw the headlines about the implications for Ireland and added: "I think there's a little bit of an over-reaction."

He said that what Mr Trump said on the campaign has to be put in the context of the eight-year legacy of President Barack Obama.

"I would say that there's no need to panic yet.

"There is going to be change but I think the change comes slowly and firms that are based here in Ireland are here for various reasons."

He cited the access to a market of 500 million people, the benefit of the EU single market and added: "they're here to make money".

"They're hard-nosed business people that are in charge of United States companies and their foreign direct investment here and they I think will continue to be here."

Mr Hogan was speaking at a Dublin seminar on the impact of Brexit on the agri-food sector organised by law firm McCann Fitzgerald.

He also said Ireland must forge alliances on issues like borders and agriculture with other EU member states like Spain the Netherlands, Denmark and France ahead of the Brexit talks.

"These are the type of coalition that will help ultimately at the end of the day to get the right result for Ireland," Mr Hogan said.

In relation to agriculture, he said the industry here needs to diversify its export markets to prepare for Brexit, suggesting the ten countries of the ASEAN group including Indonesia and Thailand as an area of potential.

He praised Agriculture minister Michael Creed for beginning this diversification process with trade missions to North Africa.

Housing Minister Simon Coveney also said there's no need to panic yet.

“Companies want to have a foothold in the EU. Ireland will soon be the only English-speaking country in the EU so I wouldn’t be panicking about this,” he said.

“The vast majority of big US multinationals that are in Ireland are here because they like the full proposition that Ireland offers.”

“Tax is just one of the elements of that. I don’t see an exodus of multinationals from Ireland if there is a tax change in the US.”

“I think this is a lot more than a competitive tax rate. It is a combination of a whole series of things of which tax is only one.”

Mr Coveney acknowledged that cities like Cork are understandably watching developments in the US with great interest given the dependence on US firms like Apple, EMC and Pfizer.

“We have a very high number of US companies in Cork and Ireland. It is in the tens of thousands of people who are working for big US multinationals here,” he said.

“I think those companies are very happy here – and it is very, very rare that you see a company coming to Ireland and then leaving again.”

“That is because firms come here for lots of reasons. It is not just tax and it is very important to say that.”

“They get very good, highly skilled people here, we speak English here, it is a very stable country as well as a stable economy so while tax is one of the reasons why companies come here, it is only one of the reasons,” he added.

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