Tánaiste (Deputy Prime Minister) Speech to IJCC members

Ireland Japan Chamber of Commerce Luncheon

Opportunities for the Ireland, EU and Japan business relationship

Frances Fitzgerald T.D.

Tánaiste and Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation

28 September 2017


[Check against Delivery]


· I’m delighted to be here to address the Ireland Japan Chamber of Commerce and guests.

· This is my second visit to Japan. When I was last here in 2014 when I had the pleasure of visiting not only Tokyo, but also Osaka, Kyoto and Hokkaido too.

· You and your members play an active role in helping to build people-to-people connections as well as strong economic links between our two countries.

· As I mentioned this is my second visit to Japan; during my first in 2014 I had the honour of marching through Omotesando for St. Patrick’s Day and to speak at the I Love Ireland Festival in Yoyogi Park. The festival continues to go from strength to strength and I would like to thank the IJCC for its efforts, which help to grow awareness of Ireland in Japan.

· Relations between Ireland and Japan have never been better. This year we are celebrating the 60th Anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between our two countries. Over the years, our trade, business, social and other links have grown, based on mutual respect and shared values. We look forward to deepening our positive and productive association over the coming decades and beyond.

· I am the sixth Irish Minister to visit Japan in the past year and I think this is a clear sign of the importance we place on engagement with Japan. I know the IJCC has had fruitful exchanges with several of my visiting colleagues.

· Minister Donohoe was thrilled to visit Tokyo for St. Patrick’s Day this year and also have the opportunity to participate in an event marking another 60th anniversary – the Treaty of Rome, the birth of what has become the European Union.

· I would like to speak to you today about not just Ireland and Japan, but also Ireland’s commitment to the European Union and the EU as a key partner for Japan.

· Given the recent major progress on the EU-Japan Economic Partnership Agreement, it is the perfect time for Ireland and Japan to seek to broaden and deepen our trade and investment linkages.

· We greatly appreciate the continued strong investment by over 70 Japanese companies in Ireland – they are some of our most respected overseas investors and employers.

· Bilateral trade between Ireland and Japan is worth more than €10 billion a year, the equivalent of 1,300 billion Japanese Yen. More than 50 Irish companies have in market representation and over 100 actively exporting to the Japanese market.

The Economy

· Let me give you a brief overview of Ireland’s current economic situation.

· Ireland’s economy is growing strongly, demonstrated by continuous GDP growth over the last number of years including 5.2% in 2016. We expect growth of 4.3% this year and 3.7% in 2018.

· For 2017, our Budget deficit is estimated at 0.4%, significantly below the EU 3% target and our debt ratio at 74%, is also below the EU average of 85%.

· Employment is also growing strongly in Ireland and we are forecasting close to full employment being achieved in the economy by end 2018.

Investment in Ireland

· Ireland has successfully attracted the top 10 global companies from the Biopharmaceutical Industry and 9 of the top ten companies in the Internet and ICT sectors. We also have a thriving medical devices and financial services sector.

· All of these companies have significant operations in Ireland from Manufacturing to Research and Development, Sales & Marketing, Technical Support and so on, exporting their product and services to world markets.

· We are very happy to have a number of leading Japanese companies across these sectors and I want to thank them for the contribution they make to Ireland’s economy.

Irish Enterprise

· Foreign investment laid the groundwork for developing the modern Irish economy. Increasingly the thrust of Ireland's economic and industrial growth comes from Irish-owned enterprises, backed by Enterprise Ireland, the trade and technology agency.

· The Irish-owned enterprise sector is recognised as a hotspot of new products and processes, intensely market-focused and innovative businesses. Irish companies also benefit from a young, highly skilled and agile workforce – Ireland receives top rankings in international studies on all of these factors.

· The vibrant enterprise sector in Ireland is world-class in its capacity and performance. This is a dynamic export sector, which is underpinned by a rapidly evolving scientific, technological and innovation base. We are committed to sustained innovation that is unmatched in the markets in which we compete.

· Behind Ireland’s export-led economy are: the right enterprise infrastructure; sustained investment in innovation and entrepreneurship; win-win collaborations; and delivering value to customers worldwide.

· A key role of Enterprise Ireland is to help its client companies to win new business in international markets. Last year, these companies achieved record export sales of €21.6bn, an annual increase of 6 per cent, with growth in all our major markets.

· We attribute the strong performance by Irish businesses to an improving entrepreneurial climate for start-ups, dynamic Irish companies innovating and scaling up in key sectors such as ICT, fintech, infrastructural development, cleantech, food and non-food manufacturing, and the life sciences. We are now aiming to achieve even greater results over the next few years.

Irish companies trading in Japan

· The increasing global ambition and sophistication of Irish companies is recognised across key sectors in Japan.

· These companies span the Aviation, Agri, ICT, Life Sciences, Medtech, Fintech, Industrial and International Services sectors.

· Japan is particularly attractive for our best companies not least because of the loyalty of customers and partners, but also because of the scale and sophistication that Japan offers.

· Our companies know that there is no stronger reference in Asia than a satisfied customer in Japan. Japan is, therefore, a strategically important market for Irish exporters to the Asia Pacific region.

EU-Japan EPA

· Japan is a very important global partner for the EU. We share the same values such as democracy, the rule of law and fundamental human rights. What we both want for our peoples is peace, prosperity and a rules-based international order – serving to unite us bilaterally and also to make us stronger internationally. That is why the Irish Government was so delighted that the EU and Japan reached political agreement on an Economic Partnership Agreement in July and we look forward to the formal conclusion of the agreement by the end of this year.

· This Economic Partnership Agreement will take the EU-Japan relationship to a higher strategic level. It will establish a firm base for a free, fair and open system of international trade that is mutually beneficial. In the context of the current threats to free trade, what the EU and Japan have agreed together is very significant and will set a model framework for the world the rest of the 21st Century based on free and fair rules.

· In practical terms, the Economic Partnership Agreement will allow Ireland and Japan to do more business together. By addressing issues related to market access for goods, services and investment, procurement, non-tariff measures and the protection of geographic indicators and intellectual property rights, it will stimulate more business activity between our two countries and contribute to our economic growth. It will boost trade and investment by mutual market openings. It will create jobs and increase competition among businesses.

· And in even more practical terms I hope to see more Irish cheddar cheese in Japan and more Japanese macha tea in Ireland, in addition to the greater ease of doing business in the financial services, med tech, green energy and the full range of interests that Ireland and Japan share.

EU-Japan Strategic Partnership Agreement

· The EPA is proof that the EU remains an important and reliable partner for Japan but trade and investment is just one aspect of our close relations.

· The EU-Japan Strategic Partnership Agreement is now being finalised alongside the EPA; once it enters into force, the SPA will provide the legal framework for cooperation between the EU and Japan, giving strategic direction and coherence to our common efforts.

· The EU and Japan already collaborate closely in many areas from tackling piracy to dealing with climate change. The SPA represents a stepping up of our partnership and a broadening into new areas such as cyber-security and disaster management.


· It is timely and appropriate for me to refer briefly to the serious challenges, as well as the significant opportunities, that the Brexit decision has brought about. Ireland is a committed member of the European Union and provides companies with guaranteed access to the European market. After more than 40 years of membership, we have built up strong bonds of partnership with other member states, and with the European institutions, that will continue to serve our economy and our global partners well.

· Ireland remains completely committed to our membership of the European Union and the Eurozone, which remains central to the success of our open, competitive economy. While Ireland’s future lies within the European Union, we will also work to maintain our excellent bilateral relationship with the UK.

· Global institutions including many Japanese companies are already showing a very keen interest in moving some of their operations to Ireland. A number of them have travelled to Ireland in recent months to visit liked-minded companies among others.

· As I mentioned Japanese companies already have a large presence in Ireland and feedback from those companies about their experiences in Ireland is hugely positive.

· Over the last year, Takeda, Alps Electric, Nipro, Recruit, Sumitomo, Mitsubishi and Sojitz have all expanded or added new operations in Ireland.

· Formal Brexit have begun and it has been very positive to see the emphasis on Irish issues including avoiding a hard border with Northern Ireland.

· The Irish Government has clearly and consistently highlighted our priorities:

  • we want to minimise the impact of Brexit on trade and the economy;
  • we want to protect the peace process in Northern Ireland;
  • we want to maintain the Common Travel Area between Ireland and the United Kingdom;
  • and we want to influence the future direction of the European Union itself.


· The Irish Government remains hopeful that there will be sufficient progress on the initial priority issues to allow the necessary parallel discussions on the future relationship between the EU and the UK, including in relation to customs, to commence.

· Japan and Ireland share a common view that negotiations should be conducted so as to minimise any adverse impacts on businesses, and on the free movement of people, goods, and services.


· I would like once again to thank you for the opportunity to speak to you today. I am looking forward to hearing your questions and comments.

· I hope I have given you a flavour of the importance that Ireland’s Government places on our commitment to the European Union and to the development of our relationship with Japan, as well as the potential for Japanese companies to invest in Ireland and the capability of Irish companies active in Japan.

Thank You.