Wednesday 20 March 2019

Colm Kelpie: IDA's achievements are welcome - but threats to Ireland are outside of our control

Martin Shanahan, CEO, IDA Ireland with Watson the Android who introduced the press conference
Martin Shanahan, CEO, IDA Ireland with Watson the Android who introduced the press conference

Colm Kelpie

Martin Shanahan sounded a cautious note when showcasing the IDA's latest results.

We need to avoid complacency, be alert to the uncertain international backdrop and whether we're competitive enough to face it, he suggested.

There's no doubting the agency's success. Yesterday's announcement was peppered with "record" achievements in terms of the number of investments secured in a single year and the total numbers now employed in multinationals here.

The success, as the agency put it, was secured despite "unprecedented geopolitical changes" as well as tough competition from other jurisdictions for investment.

Last year heralded the onset of those intense geopolitical changes, but it will be in 2017 and beyond when the effects are felt.

The negative impact on the economy from Brexit has yet to be quantified, even though exporters and Border retailers have been feeling the currency squeeze.

Whether Donald Trump's campaign trail rhetoric slamming globalisation and promising a more protectionist approach is translated into policy remains to be seen, but Mr Shanahan himself suggested US companies may hold off making investments until they know the direction of the new administration.

He was keen to stress that despite the bombastic claims about bringing US jobs back home, American companies will continue to look for international locations to set up shop and access markets.

That may be true, but with a wild card in the White House, who knows what could occur.

Just yesterday, Ford cancelled a $1.6bn (€1.53bn) plant planned for Mexico, opting to expand its operations in Michigan, in an apparent bow to pressure from Mr Trump.

As Mr Shanahan himself suggested, the threats to Ireland are outside of our control.

The achievements by the IDA over the last year are welcome. So is the caution.

Colm Kelpie

Analysis

Irish Independent

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