The Irish Exporters Association (IEA), the leading independent representative body and voice for exporters based in Ireland, has published details of its activities in 2020. The Association, which represents exporters and supply chain operators across the country, noticed the impact that Covid-19 was having on Irish exporters early on in 2020 and called on the Government to come forward with business supports as early 15 February to assist exporters impacted by supply chain disruption related to the outbreak of the virus abroad.
Looking back at last year, Chief Executive Simon McKeever commented that the Association foresaw and forewarned that an economic fallout would ensure, however the magnitude of this fallout was unimaginable. Aside from the economic impact, working arrangements have changed and this has changed the way in which the IEA delivers its services to members.
Chief Executive of the IEA Simon McKeever stated that: “Because we knew the impact that Covid-19 was having to exporters early on in 2020, our team was equipped and ready to quickly adapt our suite of services to suit the changed working environment. This insight also allowed us to effectively represent our members to policymakers and department officials.”
Membership: The IEA has a broad membership base, covering businesses from SME’s right through to large corporates across a number of key sectors. The broad base brings together supply chain actors, manufacturers, service providers and logistics and transport workers. This broad membership base well places the IEA as a key interlocutor in the supply chain, which is especially important during the pandemic and changed trade relations with the UK. The logistics and transport sector accounts for 32% of members, followed by manufacturing (18.5%), life sciences (17%), food and drink (14%) and financial and export services (12%).
Consular & Legalisation: Consular, legalisation and visa services are a key function of the IEA. Business travel and visa requirements was significantly impacted by Covid-19 travel restrictions. The IEA arranged 66 visas in 2020, this compares to 598 in 2019. The sharp dip in visa activities reflects reduced air travel. The IEA’s consular, legalisation and visa services will continue to operate in 2021 and it expects visa numbers to pick up as a vaccine gets rolled out.
Training: The IEA’s suite of training courses went fully online in 2020. The IEA runs short training courses and its Certificate in International Trade. In 2020, 40+ businesspeople graduated in the Certificate in International Trade. The Certificate, which commenced in 2019, has had 80+ graduates in total. The Certificate united the practical and operational aspects of international trading and delivered practical learning to meet the growing skillset required for anyone working in international trade operations and regulations.
The IEA also runs a series of short courses on various topics including, a National Brexit series, Authorised Economic Operator (AEO), Customs Awareness, INCOTERMS® 2020 and Goods Distribution Practice (GDP). With regard to the GDP programme, over 900 attendees went through the programme. The GDP Passport is an IEA solution to the EU regulation to help ensure the safe handling, security and quality of medical products is maintained throughout the supply chain.
Government, public affairs and webinars: The IEA contributes to a number of Government committees and stakeholder groups, including the National COVID-19 Stakeholder Forum organised by the Department of the Taoiseach, the DETE’s Enterprise Forum on COVID-19, Enterprise Forum on Brexit and Global Challenges, the DFA’s National Brexit Stakeholder Forum and the DFA’s Business and Human Rights Implementation Group. We value our participation in these forums, where we can highlight our member’s concerns directly with policymakers and department officials. Our policy priorities for 2020 included, Brexit, COVID-19, trade compliance, climate change, sustainability, and market diversification.
As the pandemic unfolded, we quickly organised a COVID-19 series of webinars to assist our members with immediate challenges and address their concerns. We also continued our Brexit series of webinars to prepare members for the end of the transition period. In total we held 30 webinars and reached an audience of over 1800 people. Our webinars are an important forum for IEA members and associates to put their questions to policymakers and department officials and an important means to showcase the work of our excellent members.
“To effectively describe 2020 in one word is difficult. Turbulence – would be the best word to describe the impact of Covid-19 on our members however our members continue to meet challenges with resilience and vigour. I have no doubt that Irish exporters will continue to successfully navigate turbulent trading arrangements in 2021 and in the years to come.”