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Remarks by Commerce Secretary Wilbur L. Ross at the U.S.-Ireland Economic Forum Virtual Meeting


Organized by Ian Hyland, President, Ireland INC.

Thank you, Ian, for organizing this important forum today. And a warm welcome to Ambassador Crawford, and the panelists joining today’s discussion.

I am grateful for all you do to support the strong bond between our two countries – a relationship whose history pre-dates both of our nations’ independence.

Nearly a quarter million Irish immigrants were among the first to settle here during the colonial era. In fact, Irish immigrants played such a significant role in the American War of Independence that American General Charles Lee reported they made up half the Continental army.

Our commercial and diplomatic ties have sustained and flourished across the nearly two and a half centuries since, and through many challenges – two world wars, your country’s War of Independence, the Troubles, the War on Terror, Brexit, and this year’s COVID-19 pandemic.

Indeed, the world looks very different than in November last year when I met in-person with Irish companies visiting Washington to discuss commercial investment opportunities in the United States, the potential impact of Brexit, and concerns over tariffs on Irish goods as a result of the WTO Airbus case.

Still, I am encouraged that as your country’s top export destination and source of foreign direct investment, we are continuing to nurture and grow our social, cultural and economic ties. Last year, U.S. stock of FDI in Ireland totaled more than $354 billion. And 700 American companies support roughly 155,000 Irish jobs. Likewise, Ireland’s investment position in the United States grew between 2018 and 2019 from $322 billion to $343 billion. And Irish companies support more than 294,000 U.S. jobs.

From Irish food companies in Idaho, ICT companies in California, and manufacturing companies in Oklahoma, to Irish healthcare companies in Florida and engineering firms in New York, we welcome your country’s innovation and investment in all 50 states – currently the fourth fastest growing compared with other nations.

And I encourage Irish companies to continue your engagement as we focus on strategic industries like as Energy, Healthcare and ICT.  We have a SelectUSA office at our Embassy in Dublin, ready to support you and your growing operations as you look to scale up in the United States.

Alongside the United States, Ireland is globally renowned for being one of the most innovative countries in the world.

Unfortunately, as you are aware, a recent development has complicated the free flow of data that undergirds many innovative relationships between the United States and Europe.

The United States remains deeply concerned about the Court of Justice of the European Union’s July 16 Schrems II ruling that invalidated the European Commission’s adequacy decision underlying the EU-U.S. Privacy Shield Framework. This ruling has negative implications for the viability of using Standard Contractual Clauses, Binding Corporate Rules, and other mechanisms for EU-U.S. data transfers that underpin our $7.1 trillion transatlantic economic relationship.

If EU and U.S. companies continue to face legal burdens and uncertainty while transferring data across the Atlantic, the United States and Europe will face severe economic consequences.

On August 10, Commissioner Didier Reynders and I released a joint statement announcing discussions to evaluate the potential for an enhanced EU-U.S. Privacy Shield framework to comply with the Court’s ruling.

And on September 28, the U.S. government released a white paper to assist organizations in assessing whether their EU-U.S. data transfers offer appropriate protection in accordance with the Schrems II ruling.

The Trump Administration remains committed to and is actively working with our European partners to address the uncertainty created by the Schrems II ruling and find an enduring solution that ensures continuity for transatlantic data flows and strong privacy protections.

And my Department will continue to make resources available to Ireland’s businesses and government.

Deepening our bilateral commercial ties is essential to economic recovery for both our nations.

I thank you all again for participating in today’s discussion, and I wish you a productive session.