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Trade Horizons annual conference

Trade Horizons 2023

On 6 July 2023, the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment hosted the first in what will be a series of annual Trade Horizons conferences aimed at fulfilling one of the key priority actions under the Trade and Investment Strategy 2022-2026: Value for Ireland, Values for the World.

The inaugural Trade Horizons 2023 conference was on the theme of how Irish businesses can maximise their benefit from the EU’s global network of Free Trade Agreements (FTAs). The aim was to raise awareness among business audiences of the value of FTAs, and help Irish business as a whole to promote market diversification and increase our exports, particularly to markets beyond the EU.

Speakers and expert panels

The conference was addressed by both Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Simon Coveney and Minister of State for Trade Promotion, Digital and Company Regulation, Dara Calleary as well as a keynote address by Ms Maria Martin-Prat, Deputy Director General, DG Trade in the European Commission. 

Dearbhail McDonald, conference Moderator, facilitated a lively debate on evolving trade policy, and the opportunities offered by Free Trade Agreements (FTAs). As a small open economy, speakers pointed to the importance of FTAs to Irish businesses in increasing international market access, raising productivity, and contributing to Ireland’s GDP and national income. 

DG Martin-Prat spoke about shaping Europe’s trade policies across some of the emerging global trade blocks as well as ensuring that the EU’s Free Trade Network, the largest in the world continues to be sustainable. With an increasing proportion of global growth taking place outside Europe, Ms Martin-Prat discussed the importance of access to expertise and key technologies for European companies in strengthening economic resilience.

Ambassador Nancy Smyth of Canada and Deputy Secretary Vangelis Vitalis from New Zealand highlighted the new emerging international alliances, the threat of protectionism, the risk to established trade patterns and the importance of shared values in establishing trading relationships.  Secretary General of DETE Declan Hughes, Jenny Melia of Enterprise Ireland and Shane Hamill of Bord Bia spoke about maintaining international competitiveness, government supports to business, and the importance of market diversification. 

David Keenan, Senior VP with Dublin-based pharmaceutical company Amarin spoke about the importance of FTAs in establishing common rules and standards across international borders with added protection for Intellectual Property. Gareth Connolly, CEO of Red Mills, the animal nutrition company, outlined how market access afforded under existing FTAs has enabled them to develop into a global brand exporting to over 70 countries from its base in Kilkenny.

International trade and investment are enormously important to the Irish economy, and it was great to see so many people attend the conference and hear about the evolving policy context and challenges for trade policy, the supports from enterprise agencies, as well as the first-hand experience of companies benefiting from FTAs.

Related information

Trade and Investment Strategy 2022-2026: Value for Ireland, Values for the World

Free Trade Agreements

Four EU Free Trade Agreements - Opportunities and Impacts for Ireland

SME and Entrepreneurship Growth Plan

Export information, advice and supports