'They're outsmarting us' - The new US president's take on Irish business

The property mogul-turned-politician has taken a strong interest in the Emerald Isle in recent years.

By Paul O'Donoghue

AFTER MONTHS OF thinking that it wouldn’t happen, Ireland’s political and business communities are coming to terms with the realities of a President Donald Trump.

Here at Fora, we’ve already taken a look at some of the possible effects the result could have on Ireland and its economy.

In short, the consensus is that it’s unlikely to be good, while when it comes to the Trump impact on different business sectors, the outlook is mixed.

However, as we’ve seen multiple times over the past few months, the consensus is often completely and utterly wrong.

So, to get some sort of idea as to what sort of attitude Trump might take to Ireland, we’ve collected some of the more noteworthy things he’s said about our Ireland and its business.

‘They’re outsmarting us’

Perhaps most relevant for Ireland is Trump’s take on Ireland’s approach to foreign investment. He has taken aim at this before, telling the Washington Post in March that the US is being outwitted.

“We have lost million and millions of jobs to China and other countries,” he said. “It’s many millions of jobs, and it’s to countries all over.

“Other countries are outsmarting us by giving them advantages, you know, like in the case of Mexico. In the case of many other countries.

“Like Ireland is, you’re losing Pfizer to Ireland, a great pharmaceutical company with many, many jobs – and it’s going to move to Ireland.”

This was in reference to a proposed deal at the time that would have seen US pharma giant Pfizer merge with Dublin-based Allergan in a so-called ‘inversion’.

Pfizer Allergan Pfizer tried to move to Ireland
Source: AP/Press Association Images

The merger was subsequently called off after the Obama administration introduced emergency regulations designed to block such transactions. Trump has promised to prevent more of these inversion deals.

‘In the old days you went to Florida. Now it’s Ireland’

One of the ways that Trump may stem the flow of inversions is by cutting taxes. The billionaire has made no secret of the fact that he thinks the US corporate tax rate of 35% is way too high.

“In the old days you would leave New York and go down to Florida, or you would leave New Jersey to go to Texas to save taxes,” he told the financial agency Bloomberg last November, referencing how some companies would move states in an attempt to lower their tax bills.

Trump in golf conservation deal Donald Trump
Source: Niall Carson/PA Wire

“Now because of the way the world is so different, you leave the United States and you go to Ireland, and different places in Asia and you go to Europe. It is a different world and we have to compete better,” he said.

‘I do not think this is a good deal for Ireland’

Trump has also taken an interest in some more local Irish affairs. Around the time when the government was considering selling its stake in Aer Lingus to British aviation giant IAG, the billionaire wrote to Taoiseach Enda Kenny.

As first reported by the Irish Independent in March 2015, Trump said that Aer Lingus has “strategic advantages” to Ireland and “should not be given away to the highest bidder”.

“Aer Lingus, like the Irish shamrock and Guinness, is essentially Irish, with a strong national identity which is very important to your country. It should not be given away to the highest bidder,” he wrote.

“Aer Lingus is a brand that you and your country should be very proud of. It is much more than a business transaction.”

21/4/2010 Airport Travel Chaos Disruptions Trump advised the government not to sell its stake in Aer Lingus
Source: James Horan/RollingNews.ie

In the end the government went against the president-to-be’s advice and sold its stake in the airline for about €335 million.

‘I’m going to be back in Doonbeg soon, I love the course there’

Trump made a big splash in Ireland in 2014. The government literally rolled out the red carpet when he touched down in Shannon after snapping up the Doonbeg golf resort in County Clare.

The greeting party, led by Finance Minister Michael Noonan, was criticised by some at the time for showing too much deference to the billionaire, but Trump was full of praise for both his welcome and Doonbeg when speaking to the Irish Independent in October 2014.

“A couple of losers didn’t like that he (Noonan) did that. I said hello to somebody! I am investing a tremendous amount of money in Ireland,” he said.

“I don’t know him. I have respect for his reputation. He’s not meeting me because I am a wonderful human being. He’s meeting me because I am putting a lot of money into Ireland. I am spending in the region of $100 million.

“I am going to be back in Doonbeg soon. I loved playing the course there. People don’t know it, but I am a successful golfer with a handicap of three.”

‘Small potatoes’

However, Trump’s enthusiasm for Doonbeg appeared to have cooled a bit by the time he decided to run for the Oval Office.

As reported by the Irish Times, in February Trump was at a campaign rally at a South Carolina resort that was built by the same developers behind Doonbeg. At the rally, Trump asked the crowd if they wanted to hear his thoughts on the Irish golf course.

“I bought it a number of years ago during the downturn in Ireland I made a good investment. It is an incredible place,” he said.

“We spent a lot of money on making it just perfecto and now it’s doing great. But I don’t care about that stuff anymore. It is like small potatoes, right.

“I’ll let my kids run it, have fun with it, let my executives have a good time, but I don’t care about it. I care about making America great again. That’s what I care about.”