Ireland and Canada: Historic ties in a modern relationship

| April 20, 2014 | 0 Comments
Dublin, with views of the Samuel Beckett Bridge and the Convention Centre, is Ireland's capital.

Dublin, with views of the Samuel Beckett Bridge and the Convention Centre, is Ireland’s capital.

Five hundred years ago, fishermen from Ireland sailed west to fish cod off the  banks of Newfoundland. In time, a vibrant trade relationship began, and by the late 17th Century, merchants in Ireland were exporting supplies such as pork, butter and beef to support the migratory transatlantic fishery.
Eventually, many of those fishermen and traders made the Rock their home, and today, Newfoundland bears the imprint of a strong Irish heritage. More than half its population has Irish roots and Newfoundland bears the distinction of being the only place outside of Ireland to have a direct translation of its name into the Irish language: Talamh an Éisc means “the land of the fish.”
According to the 2011 National Household Survey, 4.5 million Canadians declared Irish heritage, a result of successive waves of Irish migration to Canada. The ties that bind our two countries stretch far back into history and the foundation of modern day Canada.
However, the relationship today is also a modern and dynamic one. It is our trade relationship that perhaps best exemplifies this dynamism. Since 2006, Ireland’s goods exports to Canada have more than doubled. Total trade with Canada in goods and services amounted to $4 billion in 2012. Canada is Ireland’s 15th largest market for goods exports at present. Pharmaceuticals, medical devices and alcoholic beverages (primarily Irish whisky) are the main goods exported from Ireland to Canada.
It may also surprise people to know that Canada receives one quarter of Ireland’s foreign direct investment abroad and today, more than 60 Irish companies have an operating presence in Canada. Ireland ranked seventh in 2012 as a destination for Canadian foreign direct investment abroad, with more than $15.8 billion in Canadian investment there.
The trade relationship, therefore, is strong and ever-growing. But there is always room to grow further. As a small, open economy, Ireland relies heavily on external trade as an important tool of economic recovery. Last December, Ireland successfully exited from a three-year EU/IMF program of support. Three years ago, we faced a shrinking economy and an exploding deficit, but today our economy is growing again. We have seen more than 58,000 new jobs created, and in February, we returned to the debt markets and raised $5.6  billion through the sale of a new 10-year bond at a yield of 3.54 percent.
Ireland is now a highly competitive and stable location for investment and jobs. We have seen relative improvement in our labour costs, reductions in property costs, increased use of innovation and technology and downward pressure on prices across professional and business services. As a result, we had the honour in December 2013 of Forbes magazine labelling Ireland the best small country in the world for business.
With the CETA [Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement] due to come into force, I hope that Canadian investors and traders will see Ireland as a primary destination in which to establish a presence in the EU market. As the country geographically closest to Canada, with a long and historic association, and with an environment conducive to inward foreign direct investment, Ireland has much to offer Canadian business. At the same time, I hope the CETA will open up further access for Irish businesses to Canada, particularly in the food and dairy sectors. The image of Ireland as a green island is one that bears out in reality. Our dairy industry shares the lowest carbon footprint in the EU and our beef industry, the largest net exporter in the northern hemisphere, is also among the lowest.
Access to Ireland, whether for business or pleasure, has never been better. I am very pleased that 2014 will see a major opening up of air access between Ireland and Canada. In addition to the seasonal direct service already provided by Air Transat from Montreal and Toronto to Dublin, Air Canada Rouge will extend its seasonal service between Toronto and Dublin to year-round service. Irish airline Aer Lingus, starting in April, entered the market with year-round direct flights between Toronto and Dublin. I am delighted that WestJet has chosen Dublin as its first European destination to commence a seasonal service from St. John’s, Nfld., in June. This new route mirrors the first transatlantic flight made by Alcock and Brown when they crossed from Newfoundland to Clifden in County Galway back in 1919. And that’s just another example of historic ties again translating into a modern, dynamic relationship.

Dr. Ray Bassett is the ambassador of Ireland. Reach him at Gurpreet.Bajwa@dfa.ie or (613) 233-6281.

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Dr. Ray Bassett is the ambassador of Ireland. Reach him at Gurpreet.Bajwa@dfa.ie or (613) 233-6281.

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