Saturday 18 November 2017

Varadkar to emphasise commitment to the EU as he meets US tech firms

Apple CEO Tim Cook
Apple CEO Tim Cook
Kevin Doyle

Kevin Doyle

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar will emphasise Ireland's commitment to the EU during a series of meetings with the world's major tech firms in the United States this week.

Facebook, Microsoft, Apple and Google are all on the Taoiseach's agenda during his three-day visit to Seattle and San Francisco.

It is understood Mr Varadkar plans to talk up the significance of their Irish investment in the wake of Brexit.

His discussions with Apple, which is headed by Tim Cook, will inevitably touch on its battle with the European Commission over whether the company owes Ireland €13bn in back taxes.

The issue of planning problems around data centres, and EU plans for a digital tax, are also likely to feature heavily.

Ahead of the trip, Mr Varadkar said: "My visit to the US west coast is a valuable opportunity to engage with major business leaders and further strengthen the economic relationship between Ireland and the US.

"I will highlight Ireland's position as an island at the centre of the world, our strong commitment to EU membership and our status as a gateway for US firms into Europe and other global markets," he said.

The most up-to-date figures show there were 223 west-coast head-­quartered companies operating in Ireland, employing 46,540 people, at the end of 2016.

Many of these companies are based in Silicon Valley, which Mr Varadkar will visit tomorrow.

"As an open trading economy at the heart of Europe, I want to double Ireland's global footprint over the next seven years to maximise opportunities for growth and prosperity for our people at home and abroad," Mr Varadkar said.

He added that the west coast of America is "increasingly accessible, thanks to the recent reopening of a number of direct flight routes to and from Ireland".

There is also a tourism element to the Taoiseach's trip, with representatives from Tourism Ireland taking part.

Mr Varadkar will take part in a number of events that are being hosted by the Irish community.

"As well as economic ties, there are strong cultural links between Ireland and the west coast, with one in 10 residents of San Francisco and Seattle claiming Irish ancestry," commented Mr Varadkar.

"I look forward to meeting members of the Irish community in both cities, and promoting the strong links between the Irish and American people."

Irish Independent

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