Ireland’s Top Trading Partners

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Ireland is the second-largest island of the British Isles, the third-largest island in Europe and the twentieth-largest island in the world.

Ireland shipped US$128.1 billion worth of products around the globe in 2016 up by 2.8% from 2015 to 2016.

From a continental perspective, 56.8% of Irish exports by value are delivered to other European countries. North American importers purchased 27.9% of Irish shipments while 11.5 % worth arrived in Asian countries. At 1.1%, the smallest portion of Irish exports were bought by African importers.

Ireland’s Top Trading Partners

Top 15

Below is a list showcasing 15 of Ireland’s top trading partners in terms of Irish export sales. That is, countries that imported the most Irish shipments by dollar value during 2016. Also shown is each import country’s percentage of total Irish exports.

  1. United States: US$33.2 billion (25.9% of total Irish exports)
  2. United Kingdom: $16.3 billion (12.7%)
  3. Belgium: $16.3 billion (12.7%)
  4. Germany: $8.4 billion (6.6%)
  5. Switzerland: $6.9 billion (5.4%)
  6. Netherlands: $6.5 billion (5.1%)
  7. France: $5.4 billion (4.2%)
  8. China: $3.3 billion (2.6%)
  9. Spain: $3.2 billion (2.5%)
  10. Japan: $3.1 billion (2.4%)
  11. Italy: $2.6 billion (2.1%)
  12. Australia: $1.6 billion (1.3%)
  13. Israel: $1.6 billion (1.3%)
  14. Poland: $1.5 billion (1.2%)
  15. Mexico: $1.5 billion (1.2%)

Over four-fifths (87.1%) of Irish exports in 2016 were delivered to the above 15 trade partners.

Israel led the fastest-growing importers from Ireland increasing its product purchases by 506% from 2009 to 2016. In second place was Mexico with a 144.1% gain in imports from Ireland, followed by Switzerland (up 104.6%) and Poland (up 75.1%).

Countries cutting back the most on their Irish imports were Italy (down -32%) and Spain (down -29.7%).

Deficits

As defined by Investopedia, a country whose total value of all imported goods is higher than its value of all exports is said to have a negative trade balance or deficit.

It would be unrealistic for any exporting nation to expect across-the-board positive trade balances with all its importing partners. Similarly, that export countrydoesn’t necessarily post a negative trade balance with each individual partner with which it exchanges exports and imports.

In 2016, Ireland incurred the highest trade deficits with the following countries:

  1. United Kingdom: -US$6 billion (country-specific trade deficit in 2016)
  2. France: -$3.6 billion
  3. Norway: -$959.2 million
  4. India: -$195.7 million
  5. Czech Republic: -$180.3 million
  6. Guinea: -$149.9 million
  7. Argentina: -$143 million
  8. Bangladesh: -$118 million
  9. Taiwan: -$97.1 million
  10. Azerbaijan: -$67.6 million

Among Ireland’s trading partners that cause the greatest negative trade balances, Irish deficits with United Kingdom (up 1,353%), Taiwan (up 139.7%) and Norway (up 72.4%) grew at the fastest pace from 2009 to 2016.

These cashflow deficiencies clearly indicate Ireland’s competitive disadvantages with the above countries, but also represent key opportunities for Ireland to develop country-specific strategies to strengthen its overall position in international trade.

Surpluses

Based on Investopedia’s definition of net importer, a country whose total value of all imported goods is lower than its value of all exports is said to have a positive trade balance or surplus.

In 2016, Ireland incurred the highest trade surpluses with the following countries:

  1. United States: US$22 billion (country-specific trade surplus in 2016)
  2. Belgium: $14.4 billion
  3. Switzerland: $5.2 billion
  4. Netherlands: $2.8 billion
  5. Japan: $2.4 billion
  6. Spain: $1.9 billion
  7. Israel: $1.5 billion
  8. Australia: $1.5 billion
  9. Mexico: $1.2 billion
  10. Italy: $1 billion

Among Ireland’s trading partners that cause the greatest positive trade balances, Irish surpluses with Israel (up 889.7%), Netherlands (up 282.1%) and Mexico (up 221.5%) grew at the fastest pace from 2009 to 2016.

These positive cashflow streams clearly indicate Ireland’s competitive advantages with the above countries, but also represent key opportunities for Ireland to develop country-specific strategies to optimize its overall position in international trade.

Companies

Major Irish Companies Servicing Trading Partners

Ireland placed 19 companies on the Forbes 2015 Global 2000 rankings. Below is a sample of the major Irish companies that Forbes included:

  • Accenture (computer services)
  • Covidien (medical equipment, supplies)
  • Seagate Technology (computer storage devices)
  • Ingersoll-Rand (conglomerates)
  • CRH (construction materials)
  • Actavis (pharmaceuticals)
  • Shire (pharmaceuticals)
  • Perrigo (pharmaceuticals)
  • Kerry Group (food processing)
  • Smurfit Kappa Group (paper products)

According to global trade intelligence firm Zepol, the following companies are examples of entrepreneurial Irish exporters:

  • Armstrong Medical (mercury, inorganic bases, calcium)
  • Bolger Engineering (iron/non-alloy steel products, electric motor parts, generators)
  • Carlow Brewing (malt beer, acyclic polyhydric alcohols)
  • Tratech Ireland (machine tool parts and accessories)


See also Ireland’s Top 10 Imports, Ireland’s Top 10 Major Export Companies and Highest Value Irish Import Products

Research Sources:
The World Factbook, Field Listing: Imports – Commodities, Central Intelligence Agency. Accessed on February 18, 2017

Trade Map, International Trade Centre, www.intracen.org/marketanalysis. Accessed on February 18, 2017

Investopedia, Net Importer Definition. Accessed on February 18, 2017

Forbes 2015 Global 2000 rankings, The World’s Biggest Public Companies. Accessed on February 18, 2017

Zepol’s company summary highlights by country. Accessed on February 24, 2016