WHEN PUTTING TOGETHER our gallery of Ireland’s 20 best trading partners for 2011, we came across one particular stat which showed just how difficult it can be to try and build an economic recovery largely fuelled by exports.
There’s one country – among the highest consumers of Irish goods – which has sent us more and more stuff in the last few years, a statistic which makes it more and more difficult to build a positive trade surplus.
Well, when we say ‘country’, we mean ‘three countries’… because the area in question is Great Britain.
While Britain has always between a happy consumer of Irish goods and services – with exports growing by a decent €622 million last year – the good work was undone by a rampant year for British exports back to Ireland.
Ireland imported €13.82 billion of British produce in 2010 – but that rose to €15.62 billion last year. The end result is that Ireland’s trade deficit with Britain deteriorated to the tune of €1.174 billion.
To put that in context, if you take the US out of the picture, our losses to Britain are almost as high as the gains we made from the next four best trading partners: France (€395m), Italy (€383m), Israel (€245m) and Denmark (€221m).
As for Northern Ireland, meanwhile… the North just missed out on the Top 20 of countries which proved better for the Republic last year.
Although imports from the six counties to the 26 counties crossed the €1 billion barrier last year – from €990m to €1.047bn (and not all of that is professional footballers) – exports grew from €1.316bn to €1.408bn. That leaves the Republic some €36m better off.
After Britain, the countries which made the biggest dents in Ireland’s trade surplus were Malaysia (€236m), Spain (€207m), the Netherlands (€141m) and South Korea (€132m).