US President-Elect Joe Biden could have an important role to play in helping business recovery in Northern Ireland.
hen he is installed as the new President of the USA, he can be expected to continue a close interest in what happens in both the British and Irish economies.
Already, he is on record as having a strong personal interest in the protection of the new arrangements for Northern Ireland after the UK leaves the EU. The complex arrangements to avoid an Irish economic border have yet to become fully transparent but the American political administration wants to protect the protocol as agreed in the Withdrawal Agreement.
Ireland, north and south, is home to a large number of investments by businesses owned in the USA. There are reported to be nearly 700 American-owned businesses in the Republic of Ireland.
In NI the number is much smaller: probably about 25-30.
American business investment on this island is critical to the strength and success of manufacturing firms.
The further expansion of American investment depends critically on possible changes in the taxation of these businesses.
The successful experience of investment in the Republic has been attributed to a combination of favourable domestic conditions (labour costs, educational systems, compatible cultural traditions and a common language) as well as the advantages offered by fiscal policy including an acknowledged attractive lower tax rate (12.5%) on business profits.
The strength of Irish fiscal policy has been amplified by the ability of businesses to transfer profits to their Irish location by a system of profit shifting.
Even if much of a company's sales and/or employment are in a separate country, fiscal rules have allowed businesses to attribute final profits to Ireland. Profit shifting may be arranged by setting notional transfer prices for business transactions so that Ireland, for example, may record profits from business conducted mainly in a country with higher rates of commercial taxation.
It would be a mistake to suggest that extensive American investment in Ireland was wholly, or mainly, a result of profit shifting. There are many successful American-owned businesses in Ireland that are profitable because Ireland offers attractive competitive conditions.
Nevertheless, there is a major international effort to secure agreement to new arrangements where company tax liability is determined more closely in the country where economic activity has taken place.
The tax position of multinational companies is attracting increased political attention, particularly in countries who judge that they are losing tax revenue because multinational businesses are choosing to shift where they declare their profits. Ireland is a beneficiary from this process.
Multinational companies enjoying favourable tax arrangements are reluctant to see this advantage reduced.
The Irish Government also, quietly, recognises a danger to the Irish position. The OECD is leading a series of studies that are exploring ways in which the profit shifting of large multinational businesses might be constrained.
Currently, a more favoured solution, to what is admitted to be the present distorting system, is a proposal that there should be international co-operation for a tax system where company taxation is more explicitly based on the locations where the 'real' business activity takes place: possibly mainly where the businesses employ people.
The OECD solution, if, or when, implemented will be unwelcome to the Irish Government.
They will use their well respected international negotiating position to try to retain some of their current advantages.
All this international pressure is both a threat and an opportunity. For slightly differing reasons, both parts of Ireland must adjust their fiscal policies (and other supportive official policies) to the changing international environment.
If the international changes are becoming inevitable (as well as appealing to a sense of fairness) then on this island, north and south, an appeal to attract more American business might be logical.
Dare it be made explicit, but both business regimes, north and south, might make an agreed shared pitch to American businesses to make profitable investment decisions here.
Added to the wider debate, the EU decision on the acceptability of the Irish business tax policies, currently unsuccessful after the major court decision on the tax demand made on Apple, but now subject to appeal to a higher court, might prove to be unnecessary.
The lawyers and economists specialising in international tax law have much to contemplate.