By Harry Keaney
As the celebration of the St. Patrick’s season moves into high gear, there will, as usual, by much about the common bonds between Ireland and the U.S. But when it comes to the increasingly contentious issue of exports between Europe and the U.S., it appears Mother Ireland, now firmly part of the Euro family, is not in Uncle Sam’s corner.
That’s because the Irish government has joined a legal and diplomatic offensive across the European Union against a U.S. imposition of restrictions on $520 million worth of European exports to the U.S. in a row over . . . bananas.
The U.S. is accusing the European Union of failing to comply with a 1997 World Trade Organization ruling that found that Europe’s banana import rules favored its former colonies in the Caribbean at the expense of Latin American producers and U.S. marketing companies.
Ireland’s international trade minister, Tom Kitt, who recently visited New York, said the U.S. should have waited for the results of a WTO examination of the issue before imposing trade sanctions against Ireland and the rest of the EU.
Up to £3 million worth of annual Irish exports to the U.S. could be under threat. However, government officials say they hope the matter will not spiral out of control. A WTO ruling on the matter is expected within coming weeks.
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Two Irish organizations, the Irish Exporters’ Association and the Small Firms Association, has warned that small Irish firms would be worst affected by the trade dispute.
"Small companies operating in high-quality knitwear, clothing and hand-made Irish food and confectionery products will be hit most," Pat Delaney, director of the SFA, said.
However, Adrian O’Neill, of the Irish Embassy in Washington, D.C.. told the Echo that, in relation to Irish exports to the U.S., the full impact remains to be determined. He added that a preliminary examination shows that the burden of the U.S. action will fall most heavily on member states of the EU other than Ireland.
"Ireland regrets the U.S. decision," O’Neill said. "We believe that the WTO should be allowed to rule on the dispute and we agree in advance to abide by whatever the WTO decides."
The Irish Chamber of Commerce in the U.S.’ business after hours networking session will take place Tuesday, March 23, from 5:30-7:30 p.m. in Gallagher’s Steak House, 228 West 52nd St., NYC. ICCUSA President and CEO Maurice Buckley said that these sessions provide an excellent venue for valuable networking, making new contacts, identifying leads, etc., for members and guests alike. The charge for ICCUSA members is $25, and $35 for non-members. This includes two drinks along with Gallagher’s hors d’oeuvre selection. Reservations are required by March 19. Details, call Padma at (212) 248-0008.
Members of the Irish Business Organization of New York will meet on St. Patrick’s Day at 1 p.m. in the Red Blazer, at 32 West 37th Street, between Fifth and Sixth Avenues. The IBO is scheduled to line up for marching in the St. Patrick’s Day Parade at 3:30 at West 48th Street. After the parade, IBO members will meet again in the Red Blazer.
Ireland’s national lottery created 16 millionaires last year. The lottery also maintained its track record of uninterrupted growth with a 3.8 percent increase in sales to a record £336.8 million.
No smoke without . . .
The number of smokers in Ireland has risen by at least 50,000 during the last five years. This despite massive government spent on anti-smoking campaigns.
The McDonald’s Owners/Operators of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut have announced details of "Arching into Education," a new scholarship program that will award $175,000 to students in the tri-state area. High school students in the area are eligible to apply. Applications are available at McDonald’s restaurants. The application deadline is March 31.
A boom — in bankruptcies
It’s one of the ironies of the times. While the U.S. is booming, so is the number of bankruptcies. For example, filings at the bankruptcy court in White Plains hit a record 3,374 last year, a 2.3 percent jump over 1997 and a 34 percent increase over the 2,515 cases in 1995. The court primarily handles cases in Westchester and Rockland counties. Financial counselors lay blame on poor financial management and, in particular, the flood of credit card offers that arrive in mailboxes. Nationwide, there were 1.44 million bankruptcies last year, an increase of 2.7 percent from 1997.
For biotech enthusiasts
Together with computer software, biotechnology is another Irish growth area. Last week, New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani announced the establishment of a toll-free phone number, 1 (877) NYC-4-BIO, for disseminating information on New York City’s biotechnology industry. Managed by the New York City economic development corporation, the phone service will assist companies in establishing and expanding biotechnology businesses in New York City.