US-Ireland Business Report Marks 100 Years of Diplomatic Relations

US_Ireland_California FlagsWith St. Patrick’s Day upon us, the American Chamber of Commerce has released its annual US-Ireland Business Report; the 2024 theme is “Building Ireland’s Transatlantic Impact.”

In the report, U.S. Ambassador to Ireland Claire D. Cronin states, “This year, the United States and Ireland celebrate 100 years of diplomatic relations. It is a significant milestone in a relationship that is bound by our close ancestral, cultural, and commercial ties, and one to be celebrated.” The trade and investment relationship, worth $1 trillion today, she continues, “is not just defined by dollars and euros, but by people. Our people-to-people ties fortify this connection in so many ways.”

Tánaiste Micheál Martin TD (deputy prime minister) from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Minister for Defense, explains that 100 years ago, in 1924, newly independent Ireland began its first formal diplomatic relationship when Timothy Smiddy presented his credentials to President Calvin Coolidge.

“Smiddy’s appointment as the diplomatic representative in the United States of America of what was then the Irish Free State was an important demonstration of the new state’s existence,” Martin writes. A century later, Ireland has more than 100 diplomatic missions worldwide.

“That the US was the first place to which Ireland appointed a career diplomat was an expression of the key role the US plays in the Irish imagination. We are two countries intertwined by family, history and affection, united by the Atlantic. That relationship is today one of shared values on the international stage, deep cultural appreciation and mutually reinforcing economic benefits,” Martin says.

Ireland is a trade-dependent economy and one of the first 12 European Union nations to begin circulating the euro in 2002. The nation has become an important European hub for key sectors such as biotech, technology, med-tech, and financial services. Ireland has a gross domestic product (GDP) exceeding US$600 billion and a population of more than 5 million.

Ireland is home to a burgeoning business community, which includes the software, pharmaceutical, finance, and medical technology industries.

Digital, R&D and Apprenticeships

Paul Sweetman, the new AmCham CEO (following Mark Redmond, who held the position for more than a decade) points out that now more than 970 U.S. companies operate in Ireland. They directly employ 210,000 people, indirectly support another 168,000 jobs, and spend more than €41 billion in the Irish economy annually, Sweetman reports.

Ireland is home to the top five software companies globally, the top five industrial automation companies, 14 of the top 15 med-tech companies, and eight of the top 10 global financial services companies.

Ireland’s attractiveness as a location for foreign direct investment (FDI) is underpinned by a myriad of factors. Ireland is ranked first globally for attracting and retaining talent, as the second most competitive country in the world, and the seventh most innovative country globally. Ireland produces 4 out of 5 medical stents, 50% of all hospital ventilators, and 1 in 3 contact lenses used around the world. The country makes up only 0.06% of the world’s population.

US Multinationals Helping Ireland’s Economy

AmCham President Elaine Murphy says U.S. multinationals (MNCs) in Ireland “are playing a crucial role in supporting Ireland’s economy, creating jobs, and promoting greater diversity and inclusion.”

In 2022, U.S. MNCs spent €41 billion in the Irish economy across capital expenditure, payroll, goods and services. This was an increase of 34% on the already-significant spend of €30.7 billion in 2021.

Mary Lou McDonald TD, president of Sinn Féin, notes that the friendship between Ireland and the United States “has proven to be critically important” and was “pivotal in the success of the peace process and the achievement of the historic Good Friday Agreement. It was crucial during the Brexit negotiations in ensuring there was no hard border on the island of Ireland. It was crucial too in the economic transformation of our country.”

Irish-California Trade Relations

Irish companies employ approximately 100,000 Americans in the United States. About 10% or 10,000 jobs are in California. Approximately 140 Irish companies now are established in the Western United States, primarily in California.

California-Irish ties run deep, with 10% of San Francisco Bay Area residents identifying as Irish Americans. More than 2 million Californians are of Irish descent.

In 2023, California exported nearly $1.8 billion to Ireland, providing approximately 10% of total U.S. exports to Ireland, and making California one of the top exporting states to Ireland. Top exported products included chemicals, computers/electronics, non-electrical machinery, and process foods. Imports to California from Ireland in 2023 totaled $2.3 billion and were made up of $964 million in reimports. (U.S. Department of Commerce)

Staff Contact: Susanne T. Stirling

Susanne T. Stirling, vice president, international affairs, has headed CalChamber international activities for more than four decades. She is an appointee of the U.S. Secretary of Commerce to the National Export Council, and serves on the U.S. Chamber of Commerce International Policy Committee, the California International Relations Foundation, and the Chile-California Council. Originally from Denmark, she studied at the University of Copenhagen and holds a B.A. in international relations from the University of the Pacific, where she served as a regent from 2012 to 2021. She earned an M.A. from the School of International Relations at the University of Southern California. See full bio.