The United States and Ireland enjoy a close cultural affinity and longstanding political, economic, and commercial relations. The outsized U.S.-Ireland commercial relationship, which exceeded $1 trillion in 2022, is significant by international standards and is particularly impressive relative to the country’s population of just over five million people.
With a GDP exceeding $533 billion in 2022, 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 2022 of $103,534. Alongside managing the after-effects of the public health COVID-19 pandemic, key priorities for the Irish government are continued economic recovery; job retention and creation; healthcare reform; housing; and counteracting rising inflation due to increased energy costs. The unemployment rate before the pandemic had reached a record low of 4.8 percent in February 2020 but hit a high of 28.2 percent in March 2020 due to pandemic-related unemployment. The Irish economy has however kicked back with a record employment level of 2.6 million employed in July 2023 while the unemployment rate fell to a new low of 4.1 percent in May 2023. Since May, then there has been a slight upward movement in the unemployment rate which stood at 4.8 percent in October 2023.
Buoyed by a slowly recovering domestic economy and a strong export sector, Ireland’s GDP increased by 16.6 percent in 2022, reinforcing its position as one of the best performing economies in the EU, albeit this growth was driven mainly by exports from foreign direct investment. Ireland’s economy should continue to be one of the strongest among the Eurozone countries due to the sizable concentration of technology, pharmaceutical, medtech, and other large multi-national enterprises (MNEs) in Ireland. This exponential export growth seen in the past few years has however moderated in 2023 as pharmaceutical and technology exports have fallen considerably.
In 2022, U.S. goods exports to Ireland exceeded $16 billion and included chemicals and pharmaceuticals, computers and electronic products, aircraft and transportation equipment, power generation technology, medical devices, and electrical equipment. The statistics for services from 2022 record the value of U.S. service exports to Ireland at $84.3 billion.
In 2022, Ireland’s total investment stock in the United States was valued at $295 billion, maintaining its ranking of the 9th largest source of FDI into the United States. Over 700 Irish firms employ more than 100,000 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 $574 billion in 2022. Almost 1,000 U.S. firms in Ireland currently employ 210,000 people.
Like most developed economies in the world, Ireland continues to fight inflation mainly caused by the effect of rising fuel costs precipitated by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Inflation by October 2022 hit a 38-year record high of 9.5 percent, but latest data suggest that runaway inflation has been arrested. By September 2023, annual inflation remained high at 6.4 percent. Ireland’s electricity supply relies on generators powered by natural gas, 70 percent of which is imported from the UK. Power and transport systems have been severely affected by rising costs due to Ireland’s dependence on imports of energy products, gasoline, diesel, and natural gas.
U.S. Embassy Dublin works closely with local partners including the Irish Exporters Association, Irish Business & Employers Confederation, Enterprise Ireland, Ireland Inc., 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 Ireland being the only English-speaking European market that is a member of the EU and the Eurozone. In addition to the advantage of a common language, access to educated and well-connected business partners is relatively easy in a pro-business and common law environment. Ireland is ranked second on the 2023 IMD World Competitiveness Ranking table, up from 11 in 2022.
Ireland is a viable test market for U.S. small-medium enterprises (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 to 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. The outlook for Ireland’s economy is positive despite increasing inflation, rising energy prices, and continued global challenges. Ireland’s GDP growth forecast for 2023 is predicted to be in excess of five percent supporting a sustained demand for U.S. products, technologies, and services in the short to medium term.
Political & Economic Environment: State Department’s website for background on the country’s political environment