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Ireland 'would be even better to invest in' with EU/US trade deal

IRELAND could be "one of the big beneficiaries" of a trade agreement between the EU and US, according to EU trade commissioner Karel de Gucht.

In an interview with the Irish Independent, Mr de Gucht said trade has allowed Ireland to exit the financial crisis through strong export results as well as investment from the US.

He said that Ireland received 14pc of all US foreign investment, more than even China.

He said the country would become "even more interesting to invest in" if a trade deal was passed, particularly in relation to the pharmaceutical sector.

The proposed EU-US trade deal, which was discussed by senior officials from both sides of the Atlantic in Dublin this week, could see streamlined drug approval processes between the two trade blocks.

Drugs currently have to be approved separately by US and EU authorities.

Mr de Gucht said Ireland would benefit from the removal of this requirement.

The drug approval process takes less time in Europe than in the US, so global drug companies would be further enticed into setting up operations here.

In terms of financial recovery, the commissioner thinks Ireland is "doing very well".

"I am very pleased that probably within half a year you will get back to the financial markets which means you will be able to finance yourself at acceptable tarrifs."

He said the borrowing rate on Ireland's recently issued three-year bond was a "very advantageous rate, very very low and very very good".

"But I'm cautious," he said. "There is certainly a discrepancy between the markets and your trade performance, and the deep problems that your citizens are still experiencing.

"I have huge empathy for your citizens," he said.

He said losses sustained by depositors in Cypriot banks won't have any consequences for Ireland.

"Cyprus was a very special case ... You got much higher interest on deposits in Cyprus that anywhere else.

"If you get more interest, more capital gains, there is always more risk."

He said Cyprus was "a completely different situation" from most of the rest of the EU, and certainly from Ireland.

"I really don't see what the relevance is because you have been putting order in your banks, putting order on your house. You had a problem with the banking sector. It was very large compared with your gross national product, but you have already paid the price for that."

The commissioner said that taking money from depositors in EU bailout situations cannot be excluded.

"There is draft legislation on this, but there is a very clear hierarchy.

"You must always look at the situation as a unique one."

Irish Independent