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Ambassador at Southern Town Hall: Ireland Integral to U.S. Drug Supply Chain 

As the U.S. seeks to reorient medical supply chains to remedy dependencies revealed by the pandemic, treating Ireland as just another foreign player would be a mistake, the country’s ambassador in Washington said last week. 

On a video conference call with members of the Irish diaspora in the South organized by the Consulate General of Ireland in Atlanta among others, Daniel Mulhall said cutting off Ireland would inadvertently harm American firms’ global competitiveness.

“One point that I wanted to make, and I will be making this endlessly over the next few years, is that whatever you do with your supply chain in the United States, you should regard Ireland as an entirely integral part, and one that carries no risk whatsoever,” he said. 

The ambassador made the statement a week after President Trump named Ireland in the same breath as China as places from which the U.S. needed to bring back drug production.

Mr. Mulhall pointed to the way that the flows of goods and components from Ireland have continued even amid a deadly pandemic that has at times pitted the U.S. and European Union against one another — at least in terms of rhetoric on the pandemic response.  

The massive U.S. trade deficit with Ireland, something that could threaten its standing with Mr. Trump, is actually indicative of how well American companies are doing in selling their innovations at home and abroad, Mr. Mulhall said. 

In 2019, Ireland exported about $53 billion in pharmaceuticals overall, the vast majority of them made by U.S. companies operating in the country. About $38 billion of those drugs and intermediary components went to the United States, according to the Commerce Department, meaning that this one product category accounted for about three-quarters of the bilateral goods trade deficit (also about $53 billion) that year. 

The rest of Ireland’s drug exports mostly went toward U.S. firms’ sales in Europe, the Middle East and Africa from a base in Ireland that is advantageous from a tariff, regulatory and geographic perspective. Ireland benefits from the jobs and scientific research these outposts create, but it flows both ways, Mr. Mulhall said. 

“It’s a benefit to those companies that they have an opportunity to spread their production around the world and to service markets from Ireland that they would not be easily able to service from the United States, and the profits those companies make go back to the United States,” he said. “Any notion that these companies should somehow repatriate their activities to the United States would be totally counterproductive for the companies and the U.S. economy.”

If any country can stay in the good graces of the American president, it’s Ireland, which enjoys a special relationship with the U.S. thanks to its large diaspora here, including in the South. 

Despite the cancellation of major St. Patrick’s day parades in Atlanta and Savannah and elsewhere around the country due to COVID-19, Mr. Mulhall in March was able to meet with President Trump in the Oval Office, showing why Irish officials often talk about the benefit of having a national holiday devoted to their country in the world’s largest economy.

This year Mr. Mulhall and outbound promotion agency Enterprise Ireland used the occasion to tout Irish investment in the United States, including a new $125 million Kerry Group plant in Rome, Ga. Kerry Group joins call center provider Sysnet and building materials giant CRH Americas, formerly Oldcastle, as investors employing hundreds across Georgia. 

More than $235 billion in Irish investment stock accounts for some 110,000 American jobs. The Georgia Department of Economic Development counts 95 Irish firms with 123 facilities in the state, employing 6,800 people.

“It won’t be long in my view before there are more Americans working for Irish companies here than there are Irish people working for american companies in Ireland. That would be an extraordinary turnaround,” he told those on the call organized by the consulate, the Irish Network Atlanta and organizations in Charlotte, Miami and elsewhere. 

Among the topics discussed were visas, travel restrictions and the COVID-19 response, from repatriating citizens to efforts to stem economic fallout. Watch the video on the Irish Consulate’s Facebook page here: 

Mr. Mulhall, who has been the ambassador since 2017 and spoke at a World Affairs Council of Atlanta event that fall, said he looks forward to coming to the South again and offered to lend his expertise in Irish history and literature to cultural organizations looking for a changeup in programming. 

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