Ireland - Country Commercial Guide
Market Overview

Discusses key economic indicators and trade statistics, which countries are dominant in the market, and other issues that affect trade.

Last published date: 2021-10-08

The United States and Ireland enjoy a close cultural affinity and longstanding political, economic, and commercial relations.   The outsized U.S.-Ireland commercial relationship, worth $ 786.9.3 billion in 2020, is significant by international standards and is particularly impressive relative to the country’s population of five million people.

With a GDP of almost $437 billion in 2020, Ireland is one of the most open and export-driven economies in the world.   Ireland remains a wealthy country and a net exporting nation with a per capita GDP in 2020 of $87,752.   Alongside managing the public health pandemic, key priorities for the Irish government are economic recovery, job retention and creation, healthcare reform, and housing.  The unemployment rate before the pandemic had reached a record low of 4.8 percent in February 2020, and subsequently was inflated by pandemic-related unemployment reaching 28.2 percent in March 2020.  The underlying true unemployment rate remains at 5.8 percent.

Buoyed by a revitalized domestic economy and a strong export sector, Ireland’s GDP increased by 4.9 percent in 2020, reinforcing its position as one of the best performing economies in the EU.   Ireland’s economic post pandemic projections remain positive and the strongest among the Eurozone countries due to continued growth of exports by technology, pharmaceutical, medtech and other large MNEs headquartered in Ireland.  This exponential export growth has counteracted the negative impact resulting from the United Kingdom leaving the EU.

In 2020, U.S. goods exports to Ireland exceeded $9.6 bn and included chemicals and pharmaceuticals, computers and electronic products, aircraft and transportation equipment, power generation technology, medical devices, electrical equipment, and travel & tourism.  The statistics for services from 2020 record the value of U.S. service exports to Ireland at $61.9 billion. 

In 2020, Ireland’s total investment stock in the U.S. was valued at $240.1 billion, maintaining its ranking of the 9th largest source of FDI into the U.S.  Over 700 Irish firms employ more than 110,000 people across all 50 states, representing investment in the agri-food/nutrition, construction, healthcare, ICT and professional and engineering services sectors.  Conversely, the total stock of U.S. investment in Ireland was $390.3 billion in 2020.  There are over 900 U.S. firms in Ireland which currently employ 180,000 people representing 20 percent of total employment in the country.

U.S. Embassy Dublin works closely with local partners including the Irish Exporters Association, Irish Business & Employers Confederation, Enterprise Ireland, the American and local Chambers of Commerce, and Irish government and national agencies to advance the U.S.-Irish economic relationship and forge joint prosperity on both sides of the Atlantic.

Top reasons why U.S. companies should consider exporting to Ireland:

U.S. companies can take advantage of the fact that Ireland is the only European market that is a member of the EU, a member of the Eurozone, and English speaking.  In addition to the advantage of a common language, access to educated and well-connected business partners is relatively easy in a pro-business environment.  Ireland is ranked 13 on the 2021 IMD World Competitiveness Ranking table.

Ireland is a viable test market for American SMEs looking to export for the first time into Europe.  Ireland’s strategic geographical location also positions the country as a gateway to Europe with access to a wider market of 742 million people. 

Ireland’s high receptiveness for U.S. products and services creates a fertile market for American brands across sectors.  U.S. goods and technologies are perceived to be of high quality, and U.S. companies receive positive support from local partners, helping to further export goals for Ireland and the European marketplace.

Ireland has, for the past number of years, been the fastest growing economy in Europe.   Notwithstanding the public health pandemic crisis and its global economic effect, Ireland’s underlying economy has the resilience to hasten a rebound which in time will fuel increased demand for U.S. products and services.