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Exporters warn of dire consequences for export industry if Aer Lingus airfreight service to US is not retained –Irish Exporters Association puts urgent request to Government to withdraw the sale of their stake.
At meeting with Minister for Transport Leo Varadkar, the Irish Exporters Association (IEA) advised of the strategic importance of the Aer Lingus air cargo facility in meeting the requirements of high tech and life sciences exporters to efficiently and competitively reach their markets. The IEA stated that this issue has not been given sufficient consideration in relation to the Government’s decision to dispose of its shareholder stake in Aer Lingus.
John Whelan, chief executive of the IEA stated at the meeting with Minister Varadkar:
"The Aer Lingus flights to the USA carry approximately 52% of the value of our exports and 43% of all imports from the USA. At risk is the €18 billion of pharmaceutical and medical technology that is exported by airfreight to the USA and €4.5 billion of high tech imports required for a wide range of manufacturing companies in Ireland. The daily airfreight connection to the US has been at the heart of Irish export growth for several decades .Let us not forget this is our largest export market as well as our main source of Foreign direct investment .The daily airfreight link is a strategic trade corridor for Ireland and must be treated as such".
Mr Whelan went on to explain to the Minister and his officials;
"Ryanair have a policy of not handling air cargo across their entire fleet and hence if they procured the dominant stake in Aer Lingus are likely to drop air cargo handling .This is not a risk that should be taken with any potential buyer of a majority stake in Aer Lingus".
In conclusion the IEA strongly recommended that the Government do not dispose of it’s remaining shareholding in Aer Lingus, as this would immediately put Aer Lingus into play as a takeover target, without any influence by the Government in ensuring the critical air cargo service link to the US in particular, is retained.
Mr Whelan concluded by advising the Minister that of all the State assets being reviewed for potential sale under the IMF agreement, the daily airfreight connection being provided by Aer Lingus to the US is the most critical to Irelands future export and economic growth, saying ;
"Sitting on our hands and hoping that the British Competition Authority , or the EU , will block a sale of the Government stake to Ryanair is not the way for a sensible government to proceed , when one of it’s key strategic assets is at stake".
The IEA advised that they have commissioned a study on Airfreight, which should inform the DTTAS on the gaps, challenges and way forward on an All Island basis in terms of airfreight policy. We will write to you separately over the next few weeks, to arrange your availability to launch the Publication of the study.
For further Information Contact: Mr. John Whelan
Telephone: 087 9271243