Enterprise Ireland and the IIEA (Institute of International and European Affairs) have come together to deliver a three-part webinar series entitled Europe is Our Future aiming to change how Irish business views the European Union.
The EU represents the biggest free trading area in the world, giving Ireland full access to this large marketplace, and the three events, the first of which took place on May 28 – with the second and third coming in July and September – aim to draw attention to this.
The webinars will highlight the unique trade opportunities for Irish business in Europe, particularly in relation to the single market and the single currency – and will also look at the untapped opportunities for Irish-owned businesses in the EU and the strong reputation which Ireland, and indeed, Irish products and services, enjoy in Europe.
It will also help to increase Irish business’ understanding of the EU and position the eurozone as an extension of Ireland’s domestic market as well as highlighting the supports available to Enterprise Ireland clients.
The single market was designed to enable frictionless trade between member states with no customs, tariffs or other barriers to trade as well as regulatory alignment across the region – and with a population of over 440 million people this is the biggest free trade agreement in the world – so, it really is a very big extension to our domestic market.
There are so many benefits to trading in a single currency as it introduces transparency and removes costs related to foreign exchange and the associated risks. And Ireland’s adoption of the euro has given Irish business access to an economy with a combined GDP of $13trn.
Of course, Europe is also a close neighbour and proximity has been proven to increase trade opportunities, while the increased direct maritime links to France, The Netherlands, Belgium, Spain and Portugal have brought us even closer.
This has never been more important, because when Brexit finally happened in December it highlighted the challenges in trading with the UK in their new status outside the single market.
But, while Irish businesses will continue to do business with the UK, there is no doubt that the benefits of the single market now make the EU very attractive, including the benefits of ongoing regulatory alignment. And Brexit or no Brexit, the Eurozone offers the cost and transparency benefits of a single currency as well as access to a very large market. However, while the multinational sector in Ireland has reaped the benefits of the single market, Irish-owned businesses have yet to take full advantage.
According to 2019 data, Enterprise Ireland client exports to the Eurozone (2019: €5.6bn) were equal to just 70pc of the value of those to the UK (2019: €7.9bn). This is despite the fact that the eurozone population and eurozone GDP is 5 times that of the UK – so this is an untapped and immediate opportunity.
So the Eurozone markets are now a key element of Enterprise Ireland’s strategy and in fact since the launch of our eurozone strategy in 2017, exports to the zone have increased by over 33pc and growth in Enterprise Ireland client exports increased by 15pc in 2019 alone. And exports to the Eurozone are steadily increasing as a percentage of overall exports – in 2019 this was 22pc, up from 20pc in 2017.
With this in mind, Enterprise Ireland is uniquely positioned and financed to help Irish companies both enter and scale in eurozone markets by offering one-to-one support, through its world class market research centre with financial support, promotion of innovative Irish products and services, and also through the eurozone training programme.
In addition, the IIEA, which is Ireland’s leading international affairs think tank, aims to provide a forum for all those interested in EU and International affairs and to evaluate and share policy options. They celebrate their 30th anniversary this year and there is also a benefit for Irish companies to become members (of the IIEA), so they can stay abreast of European affairs which may impact or present opportunities for their business in addition to networking with senior figures in business and government.
So, all in all, the future for Irish companies looking to do business in the eurozone is looking bright.
Anne Lanigan is regional director – Eurozone at Enterprise Ireland