Irish Export Patterns

The extraordinary change in the investment landscape in Ireland is also evident in the nature of goods and services exported. The EU dimension of this change is highly significant. In the early 1960s the dominance of agriculture was reflected in the export figures: more than 60 per cent of Irish exports consisted of food and 20 per cent of manufactured goods. By 1995 the relationship had been completely reversed: 16 per cent food as against 64 per cent manufactured goods. By 2013, as Ireland entered its fifth decade of EU membership, agriculture’s share of Irish GDP had reduced to about 5 per cent, although the agri-food sector was recognized as a world leader. By 2013 manufacturing accounted for only 46 per cent of GDP, while the services sector had increased massively in size to account for almost half of the overall economy.

The radical re-calibration in Irish trade is also reflected in the geographical pattern of exports. In 1960 about 75 per cent of Irish exports went to the United Kingdom. By 1970 this figure had dropped to about 61 per cent. Since then, and coinciding with Ireland’s membership of the EU, the UK market share of Irish exports has fallen dramatically to only about 17 per cent in 2013. In parallel with this trend, exports to EU states (excluding the UK) rose from just 13 per cent in 1970 to above 50 per cent in 2013. Notwithstanding this radical change the UK remains the second largest export destination for Irish goods (marginally behind the United States), accounting for almost twice the value of exports to our second-largest markets (Belgium and Germany). At the very least, one can see from this data that EU membership has resulted in a dramatic geographic re-orientation of Irish exports.


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