Ireland’s Top Trading Partners

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Geographically the Republic of 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 exported US$135 billion worth of goods around the world in 2017. That dollar amount represents a 17% increase from 2013 to 2017 and a 4.4% gain from 2016 to 2017.

Almost three-fifths (57.1%) of Irish exports by value were delivered to fellow European countries. Over a quarter (28.9%) was sold to North American importers. Ireland shipped another 10.5% worth of goods to Asian customers, with smaller percentages going to Africa (1.2%) and Latin America excluding Mexico but including the Caribbean (0.8%).

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 2017. Also shown is each import country’s percentage of total Irish exports.

  1. United States: US$36.1 billion (26.8% of total Irish exports)
  2. United Kingdom: $18.3 billion (13.5%)
  3. Belgium: $15 billion (11.1%)
  4. Germany: $10.8 billion (8%)
  5. Switzerland: $7 billion (5.2%)
  6. Netherlands: $6.7 billion (4.9%)
  7. France: $5.9 billion (4.3%)
  8. China: $4.8 billion (3.6%)
  9. Italy: $2.9 billion (2.2%)
  10. Spain: $2.9 billion (2.1%)
  11. Japan: $2.5 billion (1.9%)
  12. Mexico: $1.6 billion (1.2%)
  13. Poland: $1.5 billion (1.1%)
  14. Canada: $1.2 billion (0.9%)
  15. Australia: $1 billion (0.7%)

Almost nine-tenths (87.6%) of Irish exports in 2017 were delivered to the above 15 trade partners.

China led the fastest-growing importers from Ireland increasing its product purchases by 43.5% from 2016 to 2017. In second place was Germany with a 24.3% gain in imports from Ireland, followed by Canada (up 16.2%) then the United Kingdom (up 10.3%).

Countries cutting back the most on their Irish imports were Australia (down -38.6%), Japan (down -20.5%) and Spain (down -11.7%).

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 country doesn’t necessarily post a negative trade balance with each individual partner with which it exchanges exports and imports.

In 2017, Ireland incurred the highest trade deficits with the following countries:

  1. United Kingdom: -US$6.7 billion (country-specific trade deficit in 2017)
  2. France: -$4.2 billion
  3. Norway: -$782.7 million
  4. Malaysia: -$151.3 million
  5. India: -$147.6 million
  6. Argentina: -$145.2 million
  7. Guinea: -$142.5 million
  8. Czech Republic: -$130.4 million
  9. Thailand: -$106.7 million
  10. Bangladesh: -$83 million

Among Ireland’s trading partners that cause the greatest negative trade balances, Irish deficits with Czech Republic (up 301.3%), United Kingdom (up 270.2%) and Malaysia (up 51%) grew at the fastest pace from 2016 to 2017.

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

Overall, Ireland posted a $50.7 billion trade surplus during 2017, down by -3.1% from a $52.3 billion surplus in 2017.

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 2017, Ireland incurred the highest trade surpluses with the following countries:

  1. United States: US$21 billion (country-specific trade surplus in 2017)
  2. Belgium: $13.1 billion
  3. Switzerland: $6.5 billion
  4. Netherlands: $3.1 billion
  5. Germany: $2.6 billion
  6. Japan: $1.8 billion
  7. Spain: $1.5 billion
  8. China: $1.5 billion
  9. Mexico: $1.4 billion
  10. Poland: $932.8 million

Among Ireland’s trading partners that generate the greatest positive trade balances, Irish surpluses with Germany (up 106.8%), Mexico (up 23.8%) and Switzerland (up 19.5%) grew at the fastest pace from 2016 to 2017. Ireland’s trade with China went from a -$1.2 billion in red ink during 2016 to a $1.5 billion surplus for 2017.

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 Global 2000 rankings. Below is a sample of the major Irish companies that Forbes included:

  • Accenture (computer services)
  • Actavis (pharmaceuticals)
  • Covidien (medical equipment, supplies)
  • CRH (construction materials)
  • Ingersoll-Rand (conglomerates)
  • Kerry Group (food processing)
  • Perrigo (pharmaceuticals)
  • Seagate Technology (computer storage devices)
  • Shire (pharmaceuticals)
  • 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, 2018

Trade Map, International Trade Centre, www.intracen.org/marketanalysis. Accessed on February 18, 2018

Investopedia, Net Importer Definition. Accessed on February 18, 2018

Forbes 2015 Global 2000 rankings, The World’s Biggest Public Companies. Accessed on February 18, 2018

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