Links between Brazil & Ireland ࠠࠠࠠࠠࠠࠠࠠࠠࠠࠠࠠࠠࠠࠠ쯳pan>ࠠ쯳pan>www.visiteirlanda.com쯳pan>ࠠࠠࠠࠠࠠࠠࠠࠠࠠࠠࠠࠠࠠࠠࠠࠠࠠࠠࠠࠠࠠࠠࠠࠠࠠࠠࠠࠠࠠࠠࠠ࠼/span>

 

 

 

Address by the Taoiseach, Mr. Betie Ahern T.D.,

to the Federation of Industries of the State of Sao Paulo (FIESP), 19 July 2001.

 

 

 

Ladies and Gentlemen,

 

ࠠࠠ쯳pan>I would like to thank you very much for this opportunity to speak to you, the cream of Brazilian industry, today.쯳pan>This is the first time that I have been in Brazil.쯳pan>In fact, it is the first time that any Irish Prime Minister has paid an official visit to Brazil.쯳pan>And even though I堯nly been here for a couple of days, I am beginning to understand what an extraordinary country this is.쯳pan>I am particularly impressed by the depth and strength of Brazil튩ndustry, especially here in Sao Paulo

 

ࠠࠠ쯳pan>While there has been at least one significant Irish investment in Brazil - by the Kerry Group, an Irish food ingredients manufacturer - this trip has made me realise that there are enormous opportunities for cooperation between our two countries, and that we have a great deal of work to do to make Irish and Brazilian businesses aware of the advantages each has to offer the other, to begin to develop deeper understanding of our respective economies and societies. 

 

ࠠࠠ쯳pan>I have to tell you that your countrymen, and especially your President, have all been impressing upon me the strength and advantages of Brazil튥conomy, so I trust that you젦orgive me for using this opportunity to engage in a little publicity of my own to tell you about Ireland튥conomic success story.

 

ࠠࠠ쯳pan>I think it is fair to say that we have revolutionized our economy since joining the EEC - which has evolved into todayŵropean Union - in 1973.쯳pan>Back then, we had a largely inefficient industrial base, with a strong dependence on agricultural production.쯳pan>Our outlook was insular, and we lacked the skills and the confidence to compete in the world economy.

 

ࠠࠠ쯳pan>Today Ireland is Europe୯st dynamic economy - we have by far the highest growth rates in the EU, our trade has multiplied and our companies are going out and winning business in the highly competitive global economy.쯳pan>While agricultural and processed food products are still important to us, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, and computer and electronic equipment now account for about half of our exports.

 

ࠠࠠ쯳pan>Let me quote you some of the statistics to demonstrate the strength of our economy.

 

1.       Irish GDP growth averaged 8.5% between 1994 and 1999, a period in which the EU average growth was꼯span>2.3%; last year, GDP growth in Ireland was 11.5%, a rate unequalled in the history of the state.

2.       This growth has raised our per capita GDP from about two thirds of the EU average, where it languished throughout the seventies and most of the eighties, to over 100% of the average now.쯳pan>We expect our GNP per capita - a better indication of the wealth we retain for ourselves - to reach the EU average within the next three to four years.

3.       In 1993, unemployment in Ireland was almost 16%.쯳pan>It is now under 4%, even though the labour force has expanded by 20% in that period.꼯span>We have now reached the situation where we expect to need to recruit two hundred thousand people to Ireland from abroad over the next five years to maintain our economic growth.

4.       In the nineteen nineties, our exports more than quadrupled, having trebled in the nineteen eighties.꼯span>Ireland is now the third largest exporter in the world on a per capita basis.꼯span>Our trade surplus last year amounted to about twenty five billion dollars, or 26% of GDP, a level unparalleled in the industrialised world.

 

༯span>ࠠ࠼/span>In summary, itࡍ good time to be Irish.

༯span>ࠠ༯span>

༯span>ࠠ༯span>There are many reasons for our success, but I଩ke to focus on a few of them here.

 

First of all, education.쯳pan>We堡ll heard about the ledge economyനe high-tech, high-value sectors which are so important. Ireland has become a significant actor in world trade in IT and software products, chemicals and pharmaceuticals and we are now developing a strong biotechnology sector. Clearly, we could not have made the progress which we have made and we certainly would not be in a position to maintain and improve this position if we had not been serious about developing a first class system of education.

 

We have an education system today which is free to all, from primary school right through to university.쯳pan>We have structured our system to make sure it is flexible enough and responsive enough to produce people who will be able to perform to the highest standards and we are in the process of making considerable capital investment in our educational facilities and of making substantial funding available for research in key sectors. 

 

ࠠࠠࠠWithout the availability of a well-educated and well-trained work force, we could not have attracted the high levels of foreign investment which we have seen over the past twenty years.쯳pan>Equally importantly, our own companies would not have become as innovative and competitive as they are today if they had not been able to draw on a pool of highly skilled technology and business graduates. 

 

ࠠࠠࠠSecondly, since 1987 we have enjoyed a consensual partnership with the key economic players in Ireland.쯳pan>Employers and trade unions have negotiated a series of agreements which have provided us as a country with a stable and predictable environment in which to do business.쯳pan>The agreements have allowed for sustainable wage increases and progressive reductions in the tax burden on workers and, in doing so, have helped to maintain a continued industrial peace. 

 

ࠠࠠࠠThis predictability has been good for us all.쯳pan>Businesses have been able to make long-term plans secure in the knowledge that they would not face unexpected wage or tax demands.쯳pan>Workers have benefited not only from steady increases in their income, but also from a steady reduction in the tax burden.

 

ࠠࠠࠠThis approach - which is now frequently cited as a model for small, open economies - has contributed hugely to the cost competitiveness of the contemporary Irish economy. 

 

ࠠࠠࠠOver the years, the nature of the agreements and of the process itself has evolved, and today the discussions cover a range of issues of importance to all the economic actors in the State.쯳pan>The dialogue emerging from the partnership process on a range of social and economic issues will, I am certain, help to balance the requirements of society and economy so that we can continue to enjoy economic growth with the benefits of a consensual economic policy. 

 

ࠠࠠࠠThirdly, membership of the European Union has been vital.쯳pan>Without the access to the European markets which EU membership has given us we would not have been as attractive a location for foreign investment.꼯span>Irish companies would have found it much more difficult to grow - after all, the Irish market is small, at under four million people. 

 

ࠠࠠࠠBut the EU has helped us in other ways also.쯳pan>We have received substantial monetary transfers from the EU which enabled us to make much needed investment in infrastructure.쯳pan>While our economic success means that this flow of funds will be much reduced, the funds did make an important difference to us at a time when they were sorely needed.

 

ࠠࠠࠠI think that the EU has also given us something that튡 little less concrete, but just as important.꼯span>As I said, before we joined the EEC, Ireland was a relatively insular, inward looking society and the result of this was a certain lack of self-confidence.쯳pan>In public services there was little initiative and little strategic planning and in business there was little sense that Irish companies could compete in the international arena.

 

ࠠࠠࠠThe increased contact that we have had with our European neighbours has changed all that.튼/span>Our outlook is now far more open to the world.쯳pan>Our public services have begun to look to the longer-term, more strategic needs of the economy and society.쯳pan>

 

ࠠࠠࠠBut it is in the private sector that the change has been greatest.쯳pan>Many Irish people have participated in educational, cultural or other exchanges or in European business fora, and they have taken an enhanced sense of self-belief from those encounters, a sense that things can be done.꼯span>It is this confident outlook that has spurred Ireland to become Europe୯st successful economy. 

 

ࠠࠠࠠFinally, as I have mentioned, we have been highly successful in attracting foreign investment to Ireland.쯳pan>We have done this because of the availability of a well-educated and well-trained workforce, our access to EU markets and our pro-business administrative system.

 

ࠠࠠࠠTo give you an indication of how successful we have been, Ireland currently holds 4% of the total stock of US investment in the EU, despite accounting for only 1% of the EU economy.༯span>One third of all personal computers sold in the EU are manufactured in Ireland by multi-national corporations.

 

ࠠࠠࠠBut at least as important as the investment itself has been how we have taken advantage of it. 

 

ࠠࠠࠠThe managerial and other business standards of multi-national corporations are extremely high, and those standards have been transferred to Irish companies as managers have moved from the multi-nationals to Irish companies or indeed set up their own businesses.쯳pan>There is no doubt that this has given us a definite advantage in world markets. 

 

ࠠࠠࠠIrish companies have also used the opportunity of the presence of so many major world companies to become key suppliers to them, working successfully to meet the high standards of quality, service and price that the multi-nationals demand.쯳pan>Many of those companies have used that experience to launch themselves onto international markets. 

 

ࠠࠠࠠHaving said all that, I must, of course, sound a little note of caution.쯳pan>Like everybody else, we堬ooking carefully at what৯ing on in the US.쯳pan>The US is our second largest trading partner, and it is our largest source of foreign investment.쯳pan>So far, Iబeased to say, we havenࢥen seriously affected - in fact, our exports to the US grew by about 45% in the first four months of this year.쯳pan>But we are aware of the need to remain vigilant to the possible threats to our economy if the slowdown in the US is sustained. 

 

ࠠࠠࠠIn reality, it seems likely that the threat to continued economic growth which is most serious to us is the fact that our economy has grown so much more quickly than our infrastructure.쯳pan>Although we have made significant investments in infrastructure over the past decade, these will not be enough to sustain our growth into the medium term - the pressures are already very evident.

 

ࠠࠠࠠWith this in mind, we began work last year to implement a seven-year strategic plan - the National Development Plan - to upgrade our infrastructure, both physical and social.쯳pan>Over the coming years, up to 2006, we will spend ࠢillion - thatࡢout US$45 billion - to enhance our transport systems, our educational institutions, our training programmes, our housing stock, our electrical and telecommunications infrastructure and our environmental facilities. 

 

ࠠࠠࠠThis is the largest programme of investment which we have ever seen in Ireland, and we are confident that it will put in place the infrastructure needed to keep our economy growing. 

 

ࠠࠠࠠSo, as you can see, I come to Brazil as the head of Government of a confident, dynamic, progressive country.쯳pan>I think that there is no greater reflection of this than our dynamic and highly successful technology industries, and in particular the software industry.

 

ࠠࠠࠠMany people are aware of the number of top technology companies with significant operations in Ireland - Microsoft, Dell, Intel, Lotus, Novell, Corel and others.꼯span>But we also have a young and growing indigenous software sector. 

 

ࠠࠠࠠOver the past ten years, there has been an average of fifty new software companies established each year in Ireland.쯳pan>There are now over six hundred Irish-owned software companies with a diverse range of products and services and high levels of product innovation.

 

ࠠࠠࠠIrish software companies have become world leaders in banking, telecommunications, software development tools and computer based training.쯳pan>Ireland is the recognised world leader in the highly specialised niche of software localisation, and we are now focussing on applying all of these skills - and developing more - to make ourselves a centre for the new digital media. 

 

ࠠࠠࠠThe investment which we have made in broadband infrastructure - Ireland now has about one quarter of Europeയtal broadband capacity - will support the development of these industries across the country, and especially in the digital district which we are developing in Dublin

 

ࠠࠠࠠOver the next two to three years, Irish software exports will become one of our top three exports, and are likely to be worth more than ten billion pounds, about twelve billion dollars, a year.쯳pan>Direct employment will double to forty thousand.

༯span>

ࠠࠠࠠThe Irish software sector is highly innovative and places a great deal of emphasis on research and development, and as part of our National Development Plan we have put in place systems and finances to make sure that our rate of innovation is maintained and improved.쯳pan>This will help to keep Irish companies at the forefront of the ICT industry, anticipating developments in e-business, the growing sophistication of links with the telecommunications companies and the growth of the new digital media.

 

ࠠࠠࠠAnd yes, to answer the question I know you堡sking yourselves, the Irish software industry does want to do business with you in Sao Paulo.

 

ࠠࠠࠠOf course we, as a Government, need to examine how we can best provide the supports and contacts necessary for Irish companies to do business here.쯳pan>I was very pleased to announce in my meeting with President Cardoso yesterday that Ireland plans to open a resident Embassy in Brasilia before the end of the year༯span>We also intend to open a Consulate General here in Sao Paulo, which will have a strong focus on building Ireland࣯mmercial relationship with Brazil

 

Over the coming years, I am confident that your strong industrial sector will benefit from Irish expertise and, indeed, that our companies will benefit from building their contacts with you.쯳pan>I hope that the next time I visit Brazil it will be to see a burgeoning and substantial business relationship between our companies and yours.

 

 

 

23 July 2001: The Taoiseach visited Argentina where he addressed the Argentine Council for International Relations (CART)

 

Home