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Minister Breen to Address Major OECD Conference on Issues Facing SMEs Worldwide

  • Minister Breen representing Ireland at Ministerial OECD Conference in Mexico City.

  • Minister will hold key meetings to help boost Irish trade links with Mexico, which is Ireland’s largest bilateral trading partner in Latin America.

  • Minister will also undertake a site visit to the Latin American headquarters of the Kerry Group.

Pat Breen TD, Minister of State for Trade, Employment, Business, EU Digital Single Market and Data Protection will this week represent Ireland at a major OECD Ministerial Conference in Mexico City. The theme of the conference is “Strengthening SMEs and Entrepreneurship for Productivity and Inclusive Growth”.

The Ministerial Conference will be the third in a series held in the context of the OECD Bologna Process - a dynamic political mechanism aimed at stimulating economic growth and social development, both in OECD countries and the rest of the world. It comprises some 80 economies worldwide, as well as a large number of international organisations, institutions and Non-Governmental Organisations. Through sharing international experiences and information, its purpose is to improve the efficiency of policies directed at fostering entrepreneurship and to assist in the development and competitiveness of small and medium sized firms – at local, national and international levels.

Speaking in advance of the Conference Minister Breen said: ““It is very much a privilege to be part of such an important SME event. This is the first OECD SME Ministerial in 14 years. As Minister with responsibility for business, I am acutely aware of the importance of SMEs to an economy and in how much they contribute to the economic lifeblood of a nation – particularly at local levels. In Ireland, SMEs account for 99.8 per cent of the nearly 250,000 enterprises that we have. They also account for nearly 70 per cent of all private sector employment and generate nearly 50 percent of all turnover”.

SMEs are key to strengthening an economy’s productivity. SMEs that grow have a considerable positive impact on employment creation, innovation, productivity growth and competitiveness.  The profile of SMEs is also very diverse in terms of age, size, business model and the profile and aspirations of entrepreneurs. They vary in their characteristics and performance, including across sectors, regions and countries. These differences have implications for how policies are designed and targeted.

The Conference will discuss many of the issues facing SMEs worldwide with a view to informing required policy responses. Many countries are facing low productivity growth, weak trade and investment, and rising or persistently high inequality. In addition, major trends, including the new industrial revolution, the changing nature of work and demographic changes, call for innovative policy solutions.

As well as being the Head of Delegation for Ireland, Minister Breen will also be a panellist on an SME Stakeholders event with other Ministers. He will speak on a variety of topics relating to the SME sector, with particular reference to what policy measures should be taken to ensure that the most recent trends in digitisation are productively harnessed by SMEs. He said: ”Digital technologies enable SMEs to improve market intelligence and access distant markets and knowledge networks at relatively low cost, and stronger participation in international activity can boost SME growth. However, it is critical that they keep with the pace of digital transition. This conference will help to inform the required policy response.” Minister Breen has also been invited by the OECD to speak at the First Plenary Session: “Enabling SMEs to scale up”.  

Minister Breen stated: “As a Government, it is important that we devise and implement informed policies that allow us to maximise the potential our SMEs. For this Conference, I am focused on engaging with the OECD to ensure the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation applies international best practice to make the business ecosystem as strong and as supportive as possible for Irish SMEs”.

Bilateral trade with Mexico

Mexico is Ireland’s largest bilateral trading partner in Latin America accounting for some €1.4 billion in exports, two-thirds of our total exports to the region. During his visit, Minister Breen will meet Mexican Secretary of Economy Ildefonso Guajardo Villareal to discuss matters of economic relations between Ireland and Mexico, and neighbourhood issues, including Brexit and NAFTA.

Minister Breen will also undertake a site visit to the Latin American headquarters of the Kerry Group in Queretaro to learn more about the group’s activities in Mexico and Latin America, and will attend a dinner with leading business figures in Mexico to discuss opportunities for Ireland in Mexico and the region.

Speaking in advance of the event, Minister Breen said: “Mexico is one of the fastest-growing destinations for Irish exports. I am delighted to have the opportunity of meeting Secretary Guajardo Villareal and to discuss ways through which trade links between our two countries can be strengthened”.

Conor Fahy, Enterprise Ireland’s Manager of high growth markets including Latin America, said “This visit by Minister Breen puts the spotlight on the opportunities for Irish companies in the automotive, financial, lifesciences, telecoms and ICT sectors in Mexico. Enterprise Ireland is supporting our clients to diversify into new markets such as Mexico as part of their response to the challenges posed by Brexit”.

After the business breakfast for Enterprise Ireland clients and potential customers in Mexico City, Minister Breen will visit Enterprise Ireland’s key strategic ICT partner: Axity, the largest System Integrator in Mexico with operations across Latin America, which is collaborating with Enterprise Ireland to access Ireland’s most technically advanced companies.


For further information please contact Press Office, D/Business, Enterprise and Innovation ph. 6312200 or