Tuesday 22 January 2019

Varadkar offers to build bridges with US after Brexit

Trade tariffs also under discussion as Taoiseach meets Trump

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar. Photo: Gerry Mooney
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar. Photo: Gerry Mooney
Philip Ryan

Philip Ryan

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar will tell US President Donald Trump that Ireland should become America's "Bridge to Europe" when Britain eventually leaves the EU.

Mr Varadkar will use his visit to the White House this week to urge President Trump to build strong ties with Ireland which would benefit both countries in the aftermath of Brexit.

The Taoiseach does not expect to discuss our corporation tax rate with Mr Trump, despite continuing cross-Atlantic tensions over Irish-based US companies avoiding American taxes by setting up business here.

Mr Trump recently slashed corporation tax rates and introduced a raft of tax reforms aimed at luring US businesses based in Ireland back to America.

"Our taxes are a matter for us. American taxes a matter for them. No issue there," Mr Varadkar told the Sunday Independent. "Trump's tax reforms bring their system closer to ours in terms of rate and application. Can't really argue with it," he added.

Mr Varadkar also said: "At a time when Europe and America are drifting apart due to differences on issues like trade, tax and climate change, I believe Ireland can act as a bridge between Europe and America, interpreting one to the other. This is particularly true with the United Kingdom due to leave the EU next year.

"I also want to use the visit to emphasise the extent to which our relationship works both ways. Trade is relatively balanced when you take services into account and 100,000 Americans across 50 states are employed in Irish-owned firms. Free trade and free enterprise make us both winners."

However, the Taoiseach is expecting a showdown with the US leader over his plans to introduce significant trade tariffs on steel and aluminium imported into America.

The EU has threatened to hit back by putting import taxes on US products such as tobacco, oranges and motorcycles.

The trade war will hit fever pitch the day before Mr Varadkar meets Mr Trump for the annual St Patrick's Day visit to the White House. On the same day, the EU will unveil its official response to the US president's controversial trade tariffs.

Last Friday, the Taoiseach said a trade war would be a "bad idea" because "everyone ends up a loser". He said Ireland could be severely impacted by a trade war and said: "My trip to Washington DC is timely because the European Commission will be producing its counter-proposals, its response to what the US has done in relation to steel and aluminium, they will be doing that on Wednesday - the day after that I will be in the White House representing Ireland but also speaking for the European Union."

The Sunday Independent understands that there are divisions in Brussels over the best approach to the threat posed by Mr Trump's trade war.

EU Council president Donald Tusk is understood to prefer a less confrontational approach, but European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker wants to take on the US president over his steel tariffs.

Sunday Independent

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