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Trade figures underpin research commitment

Technology exports played a major part in the continued rise in Ireland’s trade surplus which hit a new high in June, according to the minister for jobs, enterprise and innovation, Richard Bruton.

June exports were worth €8.3 billon, up 5.6 per cent on June 2010. The June gross surplus reached €4.5bn, the highest since June 2001.

Even when seasonally adjusted, the figure stood at €4.08bn—the highest adjusted monthly export surplus yet recorded, Bruton said when announcing the figures on 23 August.

More accurate five-month figures for 2011 also show strong increases on 2010.

The key medical and pharmaceutical sector saw exports increasing by almost €1.4bn to reach €11.3bn to the end of May 2011. Organic chemicals exports rose about €600 million to €8.6bn in the same period and food exports climbed €500m to €3.1bn.

The government has persistently held up these strong export growth figures as a sign that the economy is turning the corner and that as its fortunes rise so, too, will general economic conditions. The hi-tech sector, however, is dominated by multinationals, many US owned, so while the exports are genuine and all the benefits accruing from them such as employment, corporate tax, and commercial activity with indigenous companies and suppliers deliver for the state, much of the resultant wealth is repatriated.

Nevertheless, government policy continues to be focused on export-led growth, with “high potential” Irish companies receiving state financial support for research. The results bode well for stability in relation to the science and research budget despite demands from the Department of Finance that all departments should deliver a 20 per cent reduction in their overall budgets. The goal is to cut €10bn from government spending over the next four years.

Indicating his support for the enterprise policy, Bruton said that the trade figures showed what Irish-based companies could achieve when conditions were right.

He also said it “only encouraged me further to pursue this agenda so that we can continue to support export-led growth and recovery”.