March 15, 2023
Taoiseach (Prime Minister), Ireland
Suzanne P. Clark
President and CEO, U.S. Chamber of Commerce
The political partnership between America and Ireland has worked to benefit businesses in both countries, demonstrating the power and mutual success that can come from joining forces with other nations. This partnership only continues to grow, and in the process, it is paving the way for American businesses looking to expand within Europe.
At the U.S. Chamber’s Building Stronger U.S.-Irish Ties event, Leo Varadkar returned to Washington for the first time since re-assuming his role as Taoiseach (Prime Minister) of Ireland in 2022 to deliver a keynote address. Introduced by Suzanne Clark, President and CEO of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Varadkar discussed the ways in which the relationship between Ireland and the United States can be further strengthened through economic partnerships and programs.
Improvements Within the Country Are Shaping the Way Ireland Does Business
Ireland has proven itself to be a resilient nation for decades, withstanding and overcoming challenges to see the social transformation and “a net inward migration of talented and skilled people,” according to Varadkar.
This migration, in turn, has led to a more diverse society that prioritizes marriage equality and women’s rights — along with benefits such as having the strongest labor laws, one of the highest minimum wages worldwide, and access to universal affordable healthcare.
“We have record levels of people at work,” Varadkar said. “Youth unemployment is at an all-time low. Female participation in the workforce [is] close to an all-time high.”
This level of growth has had a direct impact on businesses worldwide, with many viewing Ireland as an attractive location for investment.
“When companies are asked why they invest in Ireland, they tend to mention the same things — the ease of doing business… political stability, a common law legal system, the quality of our workforce, a dynamic research and development ecosystem, and an attractive and transparent and stable tax regime,” Varadkar explained.
The U.S.-Ireland Partnership Has Had a Global Impact
The U.S.-Ireland trade partnership has been instrumental in shaping how the U.S. and Ireland do business with one another, with the U.S. representing “one of Ireland's largest and most important trading partners,” according to Varadkar.
“Approximately 650 Irish-owned companies in all 50 states now employ about a hundred thousand Americans in sectors as broad as education, construction, energy, environment, medical devices, and software,” Varadkar said.
Conversely, American-owned companies have found great success in Ireland as well.
“There are now around 900 U.S. companies in Ireland employing more than 200,000 people directly, and as many… indirectly,” Varadkar explained. “We're home to 20 of the 25 top financial service companies, 17 of the 20 top banks, 9 of the 10 top global pharmaceutical firms, 9 of the top 10 U.S. technology companies, and 4 of the top 15 med tech companies.”
Varadkar credits this success in part to programs such as the US-Ireland R&D partnership, which he believes “demonstrates the strong collaborative relationship between our two countries encouraging scientific discovery across borders.”
Ireland and the U.S. Must Work Together to Defend Independence
Across the world, countries have been impacted by the Russia-Ukraine war. Due to the conflict, Ireland has taken the responsibility upon itself to stand up and protect what it values most.
“At a time of global uncertainty and geopolitical tension, it is more important than ever that Europe and the U.S. should stand together for our shared values, freedom, democracy, and a rules-based international order,” Varadkar said. “Those values are being threatened all over the world.”
To do its part, Ireland has welcomed Ukrainian refugees with open arms, providing support and protection while helping them to integrate into the country.
“We've welcomed over 70,000 Ukrainian refugees to our homes, schools, workplaces, and communities,” explained Varadkar. “Ukrainians now make up 1.5% of Ireland's population, and more will come.”
Citing shared values, Varadkar made clear the U.S.’s responsibility to help those impacted by the conflict, too.
“In the last century, the United States stood firm against fascism and, later, communism,” Varadkar said. “In this century, America once again leads the free world, and like the U.S., Ireland is standing with the people of Ukraine as they bravely defend the independence of their country.”