Tuesday 6 December 2016

Cross-Atlantic trade agreement will benefit Ireland - let's do the deal

Published 10/09/2015 | 02:30

Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Barack Obama during the US president’s 2011 visit to Ireland. Our history of lowering barriers and deepening ties with the USA strongly favours a proposed EU-America trade deal
Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Barack Obama during the US president’s 2011 visit to Ireland. Our history of lowering barriers and deepening ties with the USA strongly favours a proposed EU-America trade deal

Ireland was poorer than any of its near neighbours for most of the period after independence. There are many explanations and theories as to why that was the case, but there is near universal agreement that one factor was central: the decades spent pursuing a futile bid to grow stronger Irish industries by protecting them from foreign competition.

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The folly of protectionism became indisputable in the 1950s. As most of the rest of free Europe was entering its first ever era of mass prosperity, the Irish economy atrophied. According to census data, the collapse in the numbers at work was even bigger then than in the most recent crash, a fact that illustrates just how bad things were in those grim years.

The disaster of the 1950s led to the abandonment of the "ourselves alone" economic model. Things have not always been rosy since, but we are now broadly as prosperous as our nearest peers by most measures of wealth.

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