Madeleine Quirke, CEO Wexford Chamber, Welcomes the US Chargé d’Affaires to Wexford

Madeleine Quirke, CEO Wexford Chamber, welcomes  the US Chargé d’Affaires Stuart Dwyer to Wexford. 

“I am delighted to welcome you to the New Economic Leaders Forum: Drivers of Growth in the US-Irish Relationship.  A special welcome to Stuart Dwyer, Chargé d’Affaires of the United States of America, to Susan Cleary Director of Public Services with the US Embassy in Dublin and to Brian Cotter, Public Affairs Director with the American Chamber of Commerce Ireland.  You are very welcome to Wexford.   Welcome also to Chairman of Wexford County Council Cllr. Ted Howlin, County Manager Adrian Doyle, Mayor of Wexford Cllr. George Lawlor and other elected representatives.   On behalf of Martin Doyle, President of Wexford Chamber, its Board and its Members, I hope that this evenings event will bring many of us the opportunity to embrace creation of  jobs and economic growth through the Transatlantic economy.  A macro mission but with a micro focus insofar as Wexford is concerned. A county that is already well connected and well established with the US through the export of products and services.  A wide range of industry across the county which translates into  a support system for hundreds of families and a major contributor to the local economy.

Wexford Chamber, together with New Ross, Enniscorthy and Gorey Chambers have amongst our Members companies such as Altantic Industries, Waters Technologies, Clearstream/Bard, Parker Hanafan, BNY Mellon, Lake Region and Reynaeurs Aluminium.  I know that the decision taken to locate in Wexford by all of these companies was not taken lightly.  Extensive research and consultation with relevant local authorities and other agencies resulted in Wexford being selected over other Irish locations for a variety of reasons, some of them less obvious than others.  It is often difficult for us to compete on hard aspects however the people and culture and welcome are really important when businesses are looking for locations that will keep their employees content.    Ireland is currently no. 1 in the Forbes ranking for Best Place to do Business – Ireland was the only country in the world that ranked in the top 15% of all of the 11 metrics that Forbes used to guage the best countries including tax burden, innovation, property rights, technology, corruption, freedom, redtape, investor protection and stockmarket performance.  The latter is certainly on fire – 12 months to November last year the Irish Stock Exchange overall index returned 44% which is pretty impressive.  I think Forbes were referring to Wexford rather than Ireland.

Wexford has high unemployment and it is paramount that we look to develop trade and investment links with the US.  We also need to consider the perspective of a US company with an operation in Ireland on competitiveness in a global context.  We will be talking about the TTIP (I will keep you guessing as to what this acronym represents) later in the presentations but suffice it to say that it is an initiative that will benefit both sides of the Atlantic in terms of stimulating growth and creating employment.  We have to find ways of easing regulatory frameworks and standards in order to encourage trade between the EU and the US.  It can be an onerous and expensive task for a company to adhere to two sets of regulatory regimes, two sets of safety requirements and two sets of certification standards.  SMEs bear a disproportionate burden in terms of regulatory costs and administrative burden and for many the additional costs can make transatlantic trade cost prohibitive.

Full access to US public procurement contracts is not available to EU companies and although there already exists a low average tariff rate between the EU and the US, the elimination of tariffs across a number of sectors would be welcomed, particularly given the volume of trade that is intra-industry.  This would make both EU and US companies more competitive globally.

Wexford is synonymous with Tourism. Our links with John Barry, the father of the US navy, and John F Kennedy and his connections with New Ross have catapulted us into becoming a first class destination for American visitors.    The sunny South East, golden beaches, Hook Head, Enniscorthy Castle, the Dunbrody, John Barry Maritime Festival, JFK Homsestead, Cuisle Cheoil, Kellys Hotel  and many more attractions– our reputation for excellence is well established.  Wexford Festival Opera has for more than 60 years attracted hundreds of thousands of people to embark on a pilgrimage to Wexford in search of buried operatic treasures.  Wexford Festival Opera is one of the worlds most remarkable festivals which delights both critics and audiences alike.  Our magnificent Wexford Opera House was  inaugurated in September 2010 and despite the uncertainties of Irish and international life, it continues year in year out to excel with all flags flying.  There is a remarkable camaraderie engendered by the warmth and intimacy of Wexford during the Wexford Festival Opera and the Wexford Fringe, there is something in the air that quickens everyone’s pulse – a common heartbeat of expansive good feeling and heightened sensibility that brings people back to Wexford again and again.

This is who we are – a county of 145,000 people. Our county with its county town of Wexford known almost 2,000 years ago as Menapia was well connected with the rest of the world through trade and commerce.  Let the story continue.”