Belfast Telegraph

Irish leader promises to protect 'open' trade with US through EU membership

A comprehensive trade deal between the US and EU would be a win-win for both economies, Irish premier Enda Kenny has said on a visit to the US.

Addressing a gathering of business figures in Washington, the Taoiseach said he would continue to work to make a transatlantic trading agreement a reality.

Mr Kenny also said that Ireland was in a strong position to maximise any opportunities presented by Brexit.

As the only English speaking country remaining in the union, the Fine Gael leader insisted Ireland could be an important bridge between the United States and Europe.

His remarks came amid ongoing uncertainty over the fate of the proposed Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) between the US and the EU.

Negotiations on TTIP are on ice following the election of President Trump, who campaigned on a protectionist agenda and has been highly critical of TTIP.

"Ireland steadfastly supports an open, rules-based international trading system which promotes and delivers open, free and fair trade," Mr Kenny told the Economic Promotion Lunch at the United States Institute of Peace.

"We continue to believe that a comprehensive bilateral trade and investment deal between the EU and US would benefit both economies and most importantly, the workers and consumers of both blocs.

"So I am determined to work with the new US administration and as a committed member of the EU towards this end."

Mr Kenny will hold talks with President Trump in the White House on Thursday.

In regard to Brexit, the Taoiseach repeated his view that the UK's departure from the EU would be "bad for Britain, for Ireland and for Europe".

But he added: "Whilst there will be unique challenges facing Ireland, we are also in a strong position to maximise any opportunities for Ireland arising from Brexit.

"Ireland is an important bridge between the US and the EU. Post Brexit, Ireland will be the only English-speaking country in the EU, at the heart of the Single Market with unfettered access for companies, and in the Eurozone.

"Our people are well educated and are passionate about business, progress and creativity.

"We will continue to promote the strengths which make Ireland so attractive to FDI (foreign direct investment). And key to this is our strong commitment to international trade."

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