Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Charlie Flanagan TD, convened a meeting of the Export Trade Council (ETC) on 20 July. The Council comprises Ministers, their senior officials and heads of the State Agencies involved in Irish trade and investment, and representatives of the private sector.
As you’ll know from my blog of the previous meeting, the Council is a unique sounding board. It was at that meeting that a clear warning was sounded about the pre-vote mood in England, that momentum was with the Leave side and that the Irish doing business there were braced for the worst. Now that its happened, one thing is for sure; we can’t rely on status quo bias. Things are going to change for Irish business.
The meeting of the Council was mature, thoughtful and focused on the challenges we face as Ireland and the EU adjust to the changes needed to protect Irish trading interests. The more you look at those changes, the deeper and more complex the process ahead looks.
After Minister’s opening remarks, the Council heard an update on the current situation on the EU front. The floor was open to the private sector members. In response, the public officials briefed on changes afoot within our system to respond effectively to Brexit and the State Agencies in particular offered their assessment of the impact on their programmes and clients. While there are some opportunities, every sector in our economy has to adapt in some way to proximate challenges like the decline in sterling and longer term ones that are shrouded in uncertainty, such as market access, UK household expenditure and the UK’s growth projections.
Overall, there was a clear sense that Brexit’s effects on Ireland are likely to be manifold, that we face complex and sensitive decisions to balance our trade and investment interests, our offensive and defensive trade needs, and our relationships with key international partners in the new world we face. It was also recognised that the UK will remain a formidable player as it seeks to protect its interests in the unfolding negotiation process. It was acknowledged that the relevance of previous ETC discussions on building economic resilience through market diversification was underscored dramatically by Brexit.
Minister Flanagan briefed on a number of significant developments regarding the work of the Council. The first was that the ETC preparatory group of public officials will now meet as the Trade Coordination Group on a monthly basis. This will enhance information sharing in a very dynamic environment and improve whole of government coordination in the trade space. It will also assist in developing the Council’s work and input. This group will also spearhead the formulation of the new trade strategy to replace the Trade, Tourism and Investment Strategy, entitled “Trading Better”. The next meeting of the Council, Minister Flanagan advised, will focus on Asia.
I would recommend you take a look at the Minister’s press release, copied below, that issued after the meeting of the Council. It gives a good sense of the discussion and outcomes.
PRESS RELEASE: Minister Flanagan convenes Export Trade Council to discuss next steps following UK Referendum
Market Diversification Prioritised
Work to be accelerated on new trade, tourism & investment policy, “Trading Better”, 2017-2021
Next ETC will focus on Asia-Pacific region
The Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Charlie Flanagan, today (Wednesday) convened a special meeting of the Export Trade Council, focussed on the steps needed to support and enhance Irish business overseas in the wake of the British referendum decision to leave the European Union.
Following the meeting which brought together the heads of six government departments, five state agencies as well as ten representatives of private sector exporters, Minister Flanagan stated:
“Today the ETC strongly affirmed that Ireland’s future is at the heart of the European Union. That is the key message that we must send out to all our business partners and prospective investors.
“We had a very productive discussion which focused on how Ireland responds to the current challenges and opportunities. Ireland has a number of key markets where we have a strong, established presence, such as the UK, the US, France and Germany – these and other EU markets present opportunities to deepen our market penetration.
“In previous discussions at the Council, we identified market diversification as key mitigating factors in regard to risks to our economy. That indeed was reaffirmed at our discussions today, with particular reference to Brexit. In line with the intensification of this government policy, I have recently created new commercial attaché posts in Argentina, Brazil, Mexico, Indonesia and Romania, to enhance market access for Irish companies as part of my Department’s new economic diplomacy strategy.
“In line with the programme for government, we are also diversifying and developing our market presence in emerging markets in Latin America and Asia. Africa presents new opportunities as was well illustrated by the very successful meeting of the Africa Ireland Business Forum recently.
“At the weekend I was in Ulaanbaatar at the Asia-Europe Summit (ASEM) Summit. I also visited Beijing. Following my consultations with a number of Asian partner countries, today I proposed that the next meeting of the Export Trade Council will focus on the Asia-Pacific region. I plan to update members on the Government’s plan for a cross-sectoral strategy for the region in line with our Programme for Government commitments.
“Today, members were briefed on the formulation of a new successor policy to the Trade, Tourism and Investment Strategy will be accelerated. “Trading Better” will set out a coherent medium term plan for 2017-2021 to enhance and improve how we support Irish exports and investment. We agreed to accelerate that work.
“I have tasked the Trade officials in my Department to establish a Trade Coordination Group involving all the Departments and Agencies represented on the ETC. The Group will meet monthly and its primary task will be to ensure an enhanced level of coordination and collaboration across all of the Departments and Agencies engaged in supporting Irish business overseas, under the aegis of the Council. Along with my Department’s mission network of Embassies, Consulates and Honorary Consuls, the economic State Agencies are in the front lines in winning business and investment for Ireland overseas.
The Minister concluded:
“Today’s discussions and the contributions of the members of the Council were substantive. They identified the challenges facing Irish business in the UK in the wake of the referendum.
“We agreed that the economic relationship within the island of Ireland and between Ireland and Britain will remain vitally important to us and our future economic prosperity.
“Clearly, the new trading arrangements that eventually emerge from the implementation of the British decision to leave the European Union will affect us. But they will not fundamentally alter the importance of the UK market to us, nor the importance of the Irish market to the UK.
“Our discussions also showed a renewed determination to come together as we work collectively to secure and better Ireland’s prospects for prosperity.
“Ireland has shown great discipline and agility in response to the 2008 crisis and our recovery stands us in good stead. We must now show a similar determination and agility again. The Export Trade Council will play an important role in how we coordinate our collective efforts to ensure that Ireland as a trading nation emerges stronger from the challenges before us. Under my chairmanship, I am determined to ensure that outcome.”
20 July 2016
Note for Editors:
The Export Trade Council (ETC), which is chaired by the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Charlie Flanagan TD. The ETC has met regularly since 2011, including for special consultations in advance of the UK referendum. It brings together senior Ministers with an economic focus, the heads of the State agencies involved in promoting trade, tourism, investment and education abroad with the support of the Embassy network, and members drawn from the private sector.
The current members of the Council include: Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Charlie Flanagan TD, Minister for Education and Skills, Richard Bruton, TD, Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Michael Creed, TD, Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, Mary Mitchell O’Connor, TD, Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Shane Ross TD.
The heads of the State agencies that work closely with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and the Embassy network in promoting trade, tourism, investment and education are also represented on the Council: Enterprise Ireland, IDA Ireland, Bord Bia, Tourism Ireland and Science Foundation Ireland.
The private sector is also represented on the Council by IBEC and the Irish Exporters Association, as well as by a number of business people with a track record in the relevant sectors.