Thursday 17 October 2019

President Trump: Five areas of immediate concern for Ireland

President-elect Donald Trump plans to make a number of changes to America's tax regime
President-elect Donald Trump plans to make a number of changes to America's tax regime
‘I love Ireland. I love Irish people.' Donald Trump on the red carpet in Shannon Airport in 2014. Photo: Sean Curtin
Philip Ryan

Philip Ryan

Donald Trump has been elected the 45th President of the United States -

So what happens now?

1. Undocumented Irish

Donald Trump looks to have swept into power on the back of an election pledge to drastically overhaul America’s immigration policy. His likely presidency, if he sticks to his campaign promises, will be defined by his treatment of illegal immigrants living and working in the US.

Donald Trump and wife Melania after voting in New York Picture: REUTERS/Carlo Allegri
Donald Trump and wife Melania after voting in New York Picture: REUTERS/Carlo Allegri

This is bad news for the 50,000 undocumented Irish living in the US, who have spent years lobbying presidents in the hope of securing green cards which would give them and their families more security. These dreams are all but dead with Mr Trump’s election victory.

The billionaire businessman’s hard line approach on immigration will not be restricted to Mexicans working in the US and undocumented Irish living in America will now be on tenterhooks awaiting the implementation of the new president’s policy commitments.  He said he will immediately deport any immigrant with a criminal record before introducing strict new laws and order controls.

He also plans to end so called sanctuary cities in the US where police do not prosecute or deport undocumented workers when they are caught working illegally. New York and Chicago, where thousands of undocumented Irish are based, are currently sanctuary cities.

2. Multinationals

Another central plank to the new president’s campaign was a commitment to lure US multinational companies back to America with competitive tax rates.

His meteoric rise from showbiz businessman to voice of the ordinary man was predicated on his condemnation of US firms moving abroad to avoid paying corporation tax. 

 election manifesto committed to lowering the US corporate tax rate from 35p to 15pc. He also plans to implement a tax amnesty for multinationals paying tax offshore and allow them repatriate back to the US at a rate of 10pc. 

Mr Trump has used Ireland as an example of a foreign country taking advantage of US tax policy and stealing American jobs. It is safe to say Mr Trump will not be welcoming of the efforts of Enterprise Ireland and the Industrial Development Authority (IDA) to attract US business.

The worst case scenario would see US tech and drugs firms who employ thousands of Irish workers decamp back to the states, the best would see a reduction in US foreign direct investment.

3. Trade

The billionaire businessman has rubbished almost every trade deal agreed by previous US presidents as bad for business and bad for America. Now in office, he will set about ripping up trade contracts with foreign nations and begin the process all over again in the hope of getting better deals for America. Mr Trump’s main focus will be the recently agreed Transpacific Trade Partnership (TPP).

The deal between 12 countries, including China and Mexico, is one of the most significant trade agreements in world history. It has yet to be signed into law by the US Congress and with Mr Trump in the White House it is all but dead in the water.

More central to Ireland will be Mr Trump’s view of the Transatlantic Trade & Investment Partnership (TTIP) deal with the European Union. The controversial trade deal is in advance stages of negotiations but the new president will want to put his stamp on the deal and rip up the work that has been done to date. 

Ireland’s historically strong trade relationship with the US will also be put under strain due to Mr Trump’s determination to lure companies and jobs back to America.

4. Border controls and Visa programmes

Donald Trump has pledged to abolish the popular J1 visa programme which has seen thousands of Irish students flock to the US for the summer months in search of work. Despite using the programme to hire foreign students to work in his hotel chain, Mr Trump has insisted he will end the scheme once in office.

During the campaign, the newly elected US President said the visa programme is used to take advantage of workers and results in American losing out on jobs.

He has also promised to implement stricter custom checks on passengers flying into America due to security fears arising from the rise of jihadi terrorists. So far there has been no threat to the preclearance arrangement Ireland has with the US in Dublin and Shannon airports but this could be subject to change along with Mr Trump’s new customs and visa policies.

5. Cross Atlantic relationships

We’ve come along way since Finance Minister Michael Noonan rolled out the red carpet and harpist for Mr Trump when he arrived at Shannon Airport two years ago.

Since then, Government ministers have gone out of their way to criticise the businessman’s stances and comments on various issues. Taoiseach Enda Kenny branded him a racist and Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin openly supported Hillary Clinton’s candidacy.

Foreign Affairs Minister Charlie Flanagan was even forced to urge party colleagues to stop publicly attacking Mr Trump. For his part, Mr Trump has dismissed his golf resort in Doonbeg in Clare as “small potatoes” and got into a spat with Mr Kenny during the sale of the State’s share of Aer Lingus. Now that he is in the Oval Office and with the prospect of a St Patrick’s Day State visit to the US around the corner, the Government will be anxious to build bridges with Mr Trump.

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