At the breakfast conference organized yesterday by the ICCC in Montreal, Michael Noonan, Ireland’s minister for Finance, emphasized the importance of the recently inked CETA agreement for Canada-Ireland trade and commerce. “CETA could generate $200M in additional Canada-Irish business” and create 40,000 new jobs in Canada, he said. That Ireland had the honour of hosting presidency of the EU during the second half of 2013 when CETA was signed made it an important driving force to CETA’s formalization. And, this is an influence it has continued to exercise even after relinquishing the rotating presidency, Noonan added. The extraordinary measures of austerity that Ireland took were necessary in order to regain its sovereignty, said the minister for Finance, extolling the determination and stoicism of the Irish people who “did not take to the streets.” Ireland is “well on the road to recovery” he continued, as evidenced by its exit from the EU bailout programme in December 2013. In addition, this year’s successful return to the international bond markets and its EUR 1bn sale of ten-year bonds at under 3% illustrate Ireland’s reclaimed reputation as a low-risk borrower in international bond markets. Job creation has reached 1,200 new jobs per week, well above the EU average, Noonan noted. 

The past year has even seen Irish emigrants returning to the country, particularly those in the accounting, financial and pharma sectors. However,  work remains to be done: public debt, which stood at 143% of GDP in 2013, must be chiselled down to the EU average, Noonan said. Because 5% of its GDP is pharma-related, Ireland has been negatively impacted by European pharma patent cliffs [sharp decline in pharma revenues when patents on blockbuster drugs expire]. Irish economic recovery has been principally export- and foreign direct investment-driven. The many foreign multinationals in Ireland use their operations to obtain access to the entire European, rather than to the Irish, market. According to the minister for Finance, Ireland is an attractive investment destination because of its educated human capital, its position as the only English-speaking country in the Euro zone, its low corporate taxation and its proximity to North America.

The minister paid tribute to Canadian businesses like Quebec-based Power Corporation, which last year made a large vote of confidence in the Irish economy through its billion-dollar investment in Irish-owned Great-West LifeCo. And, in February, the subsidiary of Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan effected an initial payment of EUR 405M to the Irish government for the 20-year licence to operate the Irish Lottery. Finally, Noonan extended his thanks to hosts, Deloitte, and to the ICCC for permitting him to present the Irish recovery story to the Montreal business community. A lively question and answer session ensued.     Michael Noonan responds to a question