Legislation to establish trade commission with Ireland signed into law


STATE HOUSE — Gov. Dan McKee has signed legislation from Majority Whip Valarie J. Lawson and Speaker Pro Tempore Brian Patrick Kennedy to establish an advisory trade commission to promote and advance the relationship between Rhode Island and Ireland.

“Rhode Island and Ireland have a long and fruitful shared history,” said Senator Lawson (D-Dist. 14, East Providence). “This commission will build on this history and work to improve our relationship and study ways to improve economic opportunities for both Rhode Islanders and the Irish people.”

Said Representative Kennedy (D-Dist. 38, Hopkinton, Westerly), who is one of the nine national co-chairs of the American Irish State Legislators Caucus, “For nearly 200 years, Irish immigrants and their descendants have helped to build the great state of Rhode Island. I’m proud that we are establishing this commission to formalize the long relationship between Rhode Island and Ireland and lay the groundwork for another 200 years of economic opportunity and friendship.”

The legislation (2024-S 2508, 2024-H 7777) aims to make Rhode Island one of a growing number of states, of which New Jersey was the first, to establish such a commission to improve relations and develop shared economic interests with Ireland, which retains direct access to the European Union market. Ireland is the only native English-speaking country in the European Union and provides an attractive venue and gateway to the European marketplace for trade purposes.

The commission will promote ongoing trade, peace, education, political and people-to-people links between Rhode Island and Ireland. As a result of the Brexit agreement following the United Kingdom’s exit from the European Union, Northern Ireland uniquely now has access to both the UK market of sixty-seven million people and European Union market of 450 million people. The Republic of Ireland also has direct access to the EU market. The commission will learn from the 970 U.S. companies who already have a base in Ireland and are using it as a gateway to the European Union.

The legislation will establish a seven-member commission to explore, among other possibilities, bilateral trade and investments, policy issues of mutual interest, business and academic exchanges, mutual economic support and infrastructure investments and helping communities in both Ireland and Rhode Island through the creation of educational and economic opportunities.

The commission will report its findings annually by February 1 to the governor, the house speaker, the senate president and the secretary of commerce. It will also send a copy to the director of the John H. Chafee Center for International Business at Bryant University.

The legislation received a letter of support in committee from Senator Mark Daly, the 24th chair of the Senate of Ireland.


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