No better time to invest in Ireland

It is less than a year since President Obama stood on Dublin’s College Green, the site of Ireland’s first Parliament and in front of the historic Trinity College, and uttered the Irish words “Is féidir linn. Yes we can.” And the hearts of the enormous crowd that had turned out to greet him surged with the hope that is so essential for the difficult road Ireland has traveled and continues to face.

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Hope goes hand-in-hand with hard work, and it has been a year of steady progress for Ireland since the new government entered office in March 2011. 

While America is starting to see real signs of recovery, so, too, is Ireland. Work to restore economic and political stability has delivered positive benefits for our country. 

As a result, there has never been a better time to invest in Ireland. The Irish economy is growing again. Our public finances are under control and my government is using its strong political mandate to build upon this progress to deliver long-term and sustainable growth.

This return to growth is export-led, with export levels at an all-time high. This is due to improvements in competitiveness and to Ireland’s enduring attractiveness as a destination for foreign direct investment, underpinned by our talented and friendly people, a transparent taxation system and our place at the heart of Europe. 

The World Bank’s Doing Business report for 2011 found Ireland to be the most supportive business environment in the euro area. Now is the time to invest in — and benefit from — Ireland’s recovery. 

This was the message delivered by former President Clinton at an “Invest in Ireland” conference that he hosted in New York in February. Speaking to an audience of investors, he said “they’d be nuts not to invest in Ireland at the moment.” 

Irish businesses in return are investing more in America. In the last three years, nearly 150 companies established presences in the United States with Irish government assistance. Today Irish companies employ nearly 82,000 Americans across all 50 states. Many of these are involved in manufacturing, services and research and development centers. 

It is through trade that our two economies will prosper. Our strong cultural ties have extended into business. The United States is now Ireland’s largest export partner, with more than 22 percent of our exports coming here. This works both ways — the United States is now Ireland’s second largest import partner.

Ireland wants to bring this renewed focus on growth, jobs and trade to the heart of the European agenda. As Europe continues to deal with its financial problems, resolute leadership is required to ensure that due attention is given to supporting job creation, small- and medium-sized businesses, increasing trade and growing our economies. 

Ireland’s Presidency of the Council of the European Union in the first half of 2013 will be an opportunity to bring a new impetus to the jobs and growth agenda in Europe, and Ireland will be at the center of that effort. At home we have launched new plans to tackle unemployment, support business and help create new jobs. 

American and European companies are among the most innovative and competitive in the world — they are at the cutting edge of all major industries. It is a reflection of the talent and traditions of both continents. Creating stronger links between the American and European economies can bring a new wave of economic growth and get the world economy motoring again.

Breaking down any remaining barriers to trade within the bloc and with the United States should be further priorities for the European Union. Using the experience of Ireland in America, we must do more to turn the strong cultural ties between United States and Europe into better business opportunities — a win-win for all of us. 

For now, this St. Patrick’s Day period is a day for all of Irish descent and those who are happy to be Irish for a day. The Irish community around the world is among our strongest assets. We are improving links all the time with our diaspora, who remain our most valuable ambassadors. 

2013 is the year of the Irish Gathering, in which Ireland is welcoming home all those of Irish ancestry who are thinking about visiting their native land. Irish hospitality is famous the world over and there is no better time to get best value out of a visit.

This St. Patrick’s Day, Ireland is on the road to recovery, is open for business and is looking forward to building an even deeper and better friendship with the United States of America. 

Slán go fóill. Goodbye for now.

Kenny is prime minister of the Republic of Ireland.