Chief Executive's Message
On behalf of the American Chamber of Commerce Ireland I would like to take this opportunity to thank all of our members and our Board of Directors for your tremendous support and the contribution you made to the Chamber in 2010. While the past year has undoubtedly been a difficult one for all businesses in Ireland, the strong performance of Foreign Direct Investment has given a positive focus for 2011, as the Chamber celebrates its Golden Jubilee Year.
US companies continued to invest in Ireland in 2010, representing approximately three quarters of all IDA announcements. US companies announced investments of approximately €350 million in research, development and innovation projects. Major expansion projects have been announced by US firms such as eBay and Hewlett Packard, United HealthCare and MSD, Hertz and Citi to name just a few. Meanwhile new investment was secured representing all of the key sectors, such as services in D&B, new media in EA Games, and Warner Chilcott in life sciences.
These investments underline the ongoing importance of US investment to the Irish economy and society as a whole. The members of the American Chamber now employ 100,000 people directly in Ireland and have a total investment that exceeds $165 billion. Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) accounted for 75% of Ireland's exports last year. Even in these difficult times the export sector has continued to grow, with exports from the life sciences sector, driven by US multinationals, increasing by 13%. Annual exports by US companies out of Ireland now exceed €90 billion.
The continuing strength of the FDI sector in Ireland presents the American Chamber with a unique opportunity to be the strong collective voice on the importance of FDI. As the only business organisation in the country with a truly global perspective, we are in a pivotal position with policy makers to drive a focused business agenda.
The Chamber uses its voice to great effect, representing the needs of its members to both government and media, internationally and domestic. 2010 presented the unique requirement to proactively defend Ireland's image, in the face of negative international perceptions, particularly surrounding the difficulties in public finances. The Chamber placed itself front and centre of these debates and successfully relayed a message around the world, that in spite of these economic challenges the fundamentals that make Ireland a good place to do business remain.
Policy positions of the American Chamber are driven by the active involvement of the membership through our Taxation, Research Development & Innovation, and Social Legislation policy groups. Alongside this, policies are conducted through high level engagement with Cabinet Ministers and members of the Oireachtas from all parties, and Government Departments such as Finance, Foreign Affairs, Enterprise Trade & Employment, and the Department of the Taoiseach.
The Taxation group engages with key officials from the Department of Finance to ensure that the needs of FDI are being considered. This includes submissions on key pieces of legislation such as the Budget and Finance Acts. In the past year the Chamber's views have been sought on issues relating to R&D Tax Credits, allowing the views of members to directly feed in to key policy makers. The European Commission was lobbied through Irish MEPs in relation to the potentially negative impacts on of any attempts to implement a Common Consolidated Corporate Tax Base and this will continue in 2011. Members of the taxation group also provided feedback to the Organisational Review Programme on the Office of the Revenue Commissioners.
The Chamber welcomed the publication of the report of the Innovation Task Force in March of last year. The recommendations contained within the report provided a positive way to enhance Ireland's Smart Economy. However with little progress made on its implementation the Chamber urged the Government to, as a priority, establish an implementation body with a strong industry presence to assist in the realisation of the recommendations. In April the Implementation body, chaired directly by the minister for Enterprise, Trade and Innovation. The Implementation Group has, as requested, a strong industry presence, which includes that of Chamber board members Anna Scally and Lionel Alexander.
In this time of extreme economic challenges it has never been more important for the senior executives in business to come together and share experiences and best practices. The dynamic events programme of the American Chamber is designed to facilitate this kind of Member-to-Member (M2M) learning. Our annual programme includes business lunches with high profile speakers relevant to key business issues, members' briefings, and round table meetings with key political figures.
2011 is a very special year for the Chamber in which we celebrate our 50th anniversary in Ireland. We will use this milestone to highlight the very positive impact made by US companies and the strong economic relationship between the US and Ireland throughout the fifty years of the Chamber. We look forward to involving our members in many exciting activities throughout 2011.
The American Chamber will continue to position itself to show real leadership on the key issues impacting on Ireland's global competitiveness to retain and grow foreign direct investment. Most significantly the Chamber is at the forefront of the efforts to maintain our competitive taxation regime in the face of international pressures. The voice of the Chamber will also be used effectively in the international media to highlight the benefits of Ireland's high-end investment base, and to realign international opinions of the country following significant negative attention.
We are acutely aware that these issues will remain a concern in the coming year. Ireland will see a new political administration, to whom we will communicate a very strong message to reinforce the key priorities of US multinationals in Ireland. We will also continue to be a strong voice in the international and domestic media to ensure that Ireland continues to be positioned as a world class location for business investment.
We look forward to supporting all our members throughout the year and we wish you all every business success in 2011.