Ireland must stay focused on competitiveness & new opportunities in the changing global environment

  • Release Date: 27/01/2017


  • ‚ÄčJames O’Connor appointed 2017 President

  • Ireland must stay ‘match fit’ in the fight for FDI, particularly in light of current challenges such as Brexit

  • Ireland has an opportunity to become a global digital centre of excellence

27 January 2017:  Incoming President of the American Chamber of Commerce, James O’Connor, Managing Director of Microsoft EMEA Operations Centre, says it is imperative that Ireland is ‘match fit’ for the challenges ahead in the changing global environment, highlighting cost competitiveness, education and infrastructure as some of the key areas which Ireland needs to focus on to ensure that the country continues to be top of mind for investment decisions.
Highlighting the fact that the 700+ US companies in Ireland now employ a record 150,000 people nationwide, and another at least 100,000 additional jobs have been created to support and supply the work of these companies, Mr. O’Connor also stressed the fact that the relationship between Ireland and the US is very much a two way street at this point, with Irish companies creating over 120,000 jobs across all 50 States in the US and generating over $90bn in US sales.   James O’Connor emphasised the importance of being laser-focused on keeping Ireland ahead of the posse when it comes to attractiveness as a business location.  “The Ireland-US business relationship track record is second to none,” said Mr. O’Connor, “but Ireland must be extremely vigilant in face of changes on the world stage that could impact our competitiveness when it comes to future investment decisions.  The challenge of Brexit, and various changes of leadership, mean that it is imperative we constantly review our policies in relation to competitiveness, skills and talent, and investment in infrastructure to make sure we retain and advance our current strong positioning in that regard.”
“Currently, we are the most competitive country in the Eurozone, we are first in the world in terms of workforce flexibility, and we ranked 7th out of 128 countries in the 2016 Global Innovation Index.  These are strong markers for our success, but we must not be complacent when we know the competition worldwide for FDI is relentless at a time when the global environment is changing.”

Priority Areas for 2017
James O’Connor outlined the priority areas for the Chamber over the coming year.
Skills, Talent and Innovation
“Our members tell us that access to our talented and flexible workforce is one of the key reasons for coming here.  We are heartened by the Government’s commitment to the Action Plan for Education, as we believe it is imperative that Ireland continues to produce talented, flexible graduates to take up the largely high skilled roles in US multinationals.  Ireland must do everything possible to ensure the key STEM subjects get the right level of attention at both Primary, Secondary school and Third Level so that we can retain an edge over our competitor countries. 
“The availability of competitively priced residential accommodation and commercial property is clearly an essential element of what makes any location attractive for Foreign Direct Investment. The Government’s Action Plans for Jobs and Housing have the Chamber’s full support in terms of boosting supply and rectifying the infrastructure deficit. We will be emphasising to Government the need to see these measures through with great urgency.   This is important in both the urban and regional settings, and we urge Government to follow through on investment plans for the regions to make them more attractive to US FDI.”
Digital and Data centre of excellence opportunity
“Ireland is uniquely positioned to seek new opportunities.  One opportunity area we’re focused on is the incredible potential of the digital economy across all business sectors in Ireland. We believe there is strong potential for Ireland to become the digital data centre of excellence in the EU”.
Personal Taxation
“We will also be emphasising to Government the need to address the globally uncompetitive personal taxation regime in Ireland.  The income levels at which our marginal personal tax rates kick in are a disadvantage, and one that needs to be addressed as soon as possible. We need to ensure that productivity of top talent is rewarded and that individuals are incentivised to move to and stay in Ireland.”
“While Brexit will present significant challenges for Government, we also believe there could be additional opportunities for Ireland.  We know that Brexit is top priority for the Irish Government and are ready to assist both Government and the IDA wherever we can in mitigating potential challenges whilst also making the case for further investment opportunities in Ireland.”
Further information contact:
Conor Neylan, Communications Manager, American Chamber, 087 7542475
Nuala Buttner, Q4PR, 085 174 4275