Selling Aer Lingus could devastate trade, warns export group
SELLING the State's holding in Aer Lingus could have a devastating effect on trade in this country, the head of the Irish Exporters' Association has warned.
At a meeting with Transport Minister Leo Varadkar, IEA chief executive John Whelan said the full privatisation of the former national carrier could have a huge effect on exports from this country, especially when it comes to doing business with the United States.
The group claims Aer Lingus's freight business could well be cut back hugely if the airline were to be completely privatised. Cargo is believed to be much less profitable than passenger traffic and Ryanair, which is currently trying to buy Aer Lingus, has not carried freight for years.
Mr Whelan believes the Government needs to view Aer Lingus as a "strategic asset" and therefore it should be retained as a state asset.
"The Aer Lingus flights to the US carry approximately 52pc of the value of our exports and 43pc of all imports from the US," he said.
"At risk is the €18bn of pharmaceutical and medical technology that is exported by air freight to the USA and €4.5bn of hi- tech imports required for a wide range of manufacturing companies in Ireland.
"The daily air freight connection to the US has been at the heart of Irish export growth and this is our largest export market, as well as our main source of direct investment.
"It's a strategic trade corridor for Ireland and must be treated as such," Mr Whelan added.
"Of all the state assets being reviewed for potential sale under the IMF agreement, (this) is the most critical to Ireland's future economic growth."
The association has also warned that proposed EU laws on the sulphur content of shipping fuels could increase costs in the industry by 40pc.