President Barack Obama said greater trade with Ireland, illustrated by Ryanair Holdings Plc’s agreement to buy 175 Boeing Co. jets, will help drive growth in U.S. jobs.
“This will be a major topic of discussion,” Obama said as he welcomed Ireland Prime Minister Enda Kenny for a belated St. Patrick’s Day celebration at the White House.
Boeing and Ryanair earlier today announced the deal for the 737 passenger aircraft worth $15.6 billion at list price as the Dublin-based airline seeks to add discount flights in markets vacated by full-service rivals.
Kenny said he’ll brief Obama on “the progress being made in challenging times” facing the Irish government. As holder of the European Union presidency, Kenny said the two leaders also will talk about a proposed free trade agreement between the U.S. and EU.
Ireland continues to struggle with its debt. International Monetary Fund Managing Director Christine Lagarde said on a visit to Ireland earlier this month that the country remains “swamped” in debt, which totals about 122 percent of gross domestic product, the fourth highest in the euro region.
Obama said Kenny has provided “great leadership in difficult times” in Ireland and that the Irish economy is making progress. The president has been putting his focus on trade deals to help accelerate the U.S. economy.
The U.S. and EU aim to complete trade talks within two years on a deal that would expand their economic relationship. The 27-nation EU says the accord will seek to lower tariffs, ease regulatory barriers and expand access in investment, services and public procurement, among other steps.
While trade and investment between the U.S. and the EU was valued at $4.5 trillion in 2011, the two sides have been at odds over issues including farm subsidies, food safety, health protections and regulatory standards.
Obama and first lady Michelle Obama hosted a reception for Kenny tonight at the White House where the two leaders toasted what the Irish prime minister called a “very special relationship” between the U.S. and the Irish people.
“It’s clear just how much America owes to our brothers and sisters from across the Atlantic, and how many of us -- myself included -- wouldn’t be here if it were not for the brave souls who set off for the New World with no earthly idea of what awaited them on the other side,” Obama said in his remarks.
Kenny presented Obama with a glass bowl, crafted in Ireland and full of Irish shamrocks.
“As a nation, we make joy from sadness. As a country, we forge success from difficulty. As a republic, we create ourselves anew,” Kenny said in remarks tonight. “And as we do, we remember and we honor the old.”
Obama also met separately today with Peter Robinson, leader of Northern Ireland’s pro-U.K. Democratic Unionist Party, and his deputy, Martin McGuinness, to discuss progress toward peace in Northern Ireland.