Thursday, 17 December 2020
Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment
233. To ask the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the degree to which he and his Department continue to establish new trading links globally to compensate for job losses related to Brexit; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [44638/20]
236. To ask the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the extent to which he and his Department have engaged in the promotion of Irish exports, new trade links and alternative markets to compensate for any loss of markets through Brexit; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [44641/20]
I propose to take Questions Nos. 233 and 236 together.
My Department’s budget allocation for 2021 has been increased by €154 million or 15.9% on the 2020 allocation in addition to €100 million earmarked from the Recovery Fund for Brexit. This is a record allocation and will significantly bolster the capability of our enterprise and regulatory agencies to help businesses examine their Brexit exposure, seek advice, avail of customs training and make plans to protect their business.
Ireland's overall export performance over the last 10 years has been marked by year-on-year growth with total exports of goods and services reaching further record levels of €374 billion in 2019.
While the UK is and will remain a major market for Irish companies, expanding the Irish export footprint in markets beyond the UK is a key priority. In that context, Enterprise Ireland’s strategy is to support Irish exporters to be more innovative, competitive and market diversified.
The Irish exporting landscape has been strong and companies in Ireland have been succeeding in winning business worldwide for their products and services. Enterprise Ireland client companies achieved record levels of exports in 2019 of €25.6bn, against the backdrop of Brexit uncertainty. In 2019, the Eurozone region, which is a key focus of Enterprise Ireland’s diversification strategy, saw growth of 15% to €5.65bn, with Germany, France and the Netherlands each exceeding €1bn in exports. Exports to North America increased from €4.08bn in 2018 to €4.72bn, an increase of 16%. Our Enterprise agencies are now opening new offices around the world to support our companies in competing and thriving in global markets.
Ministerial-led Trade Missions have supported the Government's major drive towards market diversification. The majority of trade missions in recent years have taken place to the Eurozone, North America and Asia Pacific, which represented the strongest growth opportunities for Irish companies. These Trade Missions focused on promoting the innovative capabilities and competitive offerings of Irish companies to international buyers in sectors including internationally traded services, fintech, high-tech construction, engineering, ICT and lifesciences.
While it has not been possible to lead Trade Missions in 2020 due to COVID-19 travel restrictions, promotion of our companies abroad continued through the work of our State agencies, and, in particular, their offices located on the ground internationally.
My Department is currently in contact with Enterprise Ireland with a view to developing a Ministerial led Trade Mission Programme for 2021. At this stage, it is envisaged that such a programme will contain a mix of virtual and actual trade missions. At the same time, Enterprise Ireland will continue to support companies to sustain their existing export sales and to increasingly diversify their export markets. This will include strengthening sales and marketing capability of companies, with a particular focus on remote/virtual channels and providing targeted financial and advisory supports to companies adversely impacted upon by COVID-19 and Brexit to support their adaptation to the challenging market environment.
As well as the global efforts supported by our agencies, key to our success has been our commitment to trade liberalisation in order to open new markets for our indigenous sectors. The EU has successfully concluded a number of important trade agreements with trading partners and is in the process of negotiating or upgrading its agreements with many more. The existing suite of EU Free Trade Agreements and new trade deals will continue to be very important for Ireland. With a small domestic market, further expansion in other markets is essential to our continued economic growth and, in this regard, Ireland will continue to support the EU’s ambitious programme of negotiating new Free Trade Agreements, opening new markets for Irish companies and increasing export and investment opportunities.