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Trump Touts Irish Ties, But Jokes About Country's Taxes

President Donald Trump meets with Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar in the Oval Office of the White House, Thursday, March 15, 2018, in Washington.
Associated Press
President Donald Trump meets with Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar in the Oval Office of the White House, Thursday, March 15, 2018, in Washington.
Trump Touts Irish Ties, But Jokes About Country's Taxes
Trump Touts Irish Ties, But Jokes About Country's Taxes GUEST: Brendan Griffin, minister of state for tourism and sport, Ireland

>> It's Friday, March 16, our top story on Midshipman-day addition copper more than a year San Diego leaders have been uneasy about the trumpet ministrations efforts to renegotiate the NAFTA trade agreement which they say has worked well for our region. Now after the president's orders raising tariffs that trade wars are good and easy to when, the rest of the world is feeling the same kind of uneasiness. A number of leaders from the Republic Ireland are in America this week and they're not here just to celebrate St. Patrick's Day. When the Prime Minister visited cadre tensions came up even a speaker of the house Paul Ryan raised a glass of Irish beer. >> The Guinness taste better in Ireland but I realized it's probably not the right year to bring up trade issues. >> Here in San Diego it's a pleasure to welcome the Irish minister state for tourism and sport Brandon Griffin. Welcome to the program. >> Thank you. >> Politicians and policy -- in Washington may be joking about it but it seems like relationships are tense over trade. What is at stake for Ireland ? >> We are a small open economy. We also trade with United States and with North America as well and a lot of other countries in the world. We have a history in our own country with trade wars. The Prime Minister was talking about possibly creating a wedge between Europe and America and they are hoping that Ireland could be a bridge in that relationship. >> We see ourselves as being well-positioned of what would be the only English-speaking country remaining in the European Union. We see ourselves as a possible conduit between Europe and the United States and America. We are also 100% committed to a future in Europe unlike Great Britain. We see very much our future as being part of the European Union and we want to ensure that those people will have a close ally. >> As Minister of tourism do you see any potential impact on travel from the USA to Ireland if these tensions continue. >> It's hard to quantify where the ratifications and with any potential trade disruption. We have been having a very good few years in Ireland in relation to tourism and travel. I am hoping to break all records again this year in 2018. We broke all records in 2017 as well. The United States market is really strong at the moment. >> Let me focus in on that for a minute. Tell us something that would surprise us about what there is to see and do in Ireland. >> Star Wars fans, we know you got a lot of them in California and the last Jedi was filmed in Ireland. It's a 2 1/2 kilometer route which is about 1500 miles. >> Let me ask you, how are you spending St. Patrick's Day ? >> I will be here in San Diego, I will take part in the parade tomorrow. Before that I will be up early to watch the rugby match. My portfolio is tourism and sports. If Ireland wins the game tomorrow it would be great. I will be hoping and praying tonight as I go to bed that in the morning we will have a great day for Ireland tomorrow on St. Patrick's Day. >> I wish you very good luck. Thank you.

President Donald Trump praised the close ties between Ireland and the United States on Thursday at a series of events celebrating St. Patrick's Day, though he joked that the country was a "tough one to compete with" on taxes.

Trump appeared with Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar as part of a day of joint events marking the holiday, including a one-on-one visit at the White House. Both leaders spoke at a luncheon at the U.S. Capitol with Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan, an event that included Vice President Mike Pence and several lawmakers of Irish descent.

After noting a number of famous Irish Americans, Trump said: "Whenever there's a problem, you call, we'll solve it."


Amid laughter, he added: "Except for trade ...They've got those taxes so low. You're a tough one to compete with on the taxes." Trump recently signed a massive tax cut into law, aimed at leveling the playing field with countries like Ireland that have low corporate taxes.

Varadkar — who was elected Irish leader, or Taoiseach, last year — said the two had a good meeting and they spoke about Irish people living in the U.S. illegally, the negotiations over the border between Ireland and Northern Ireland and trade.

"I think we can have a new fair trade, free trade deal between Europe and America and there's no better man to make a deal than President Trump," Varadkar said.

Ryan also referenced trade, albeit in jest.

"The Guinness does taste better in Ireland but I realize this isn't the year to bring up trade issues," he said.


During a sit-down with Varadkar at the White House, Trump was asked if he would visit Ireland. The president said: "I will. I love it." He offered no further details.

Trump said the two countries have an "outstanding relationship."

"A tremendous number of Irish are living in New York, where I grew up and they're living in the United States," said Trump, who also owns a golf club in Ireland. "And these are truly wonderful people."

Trump was also pushed over whether he would visit the border between Ireland and Northern Ireland, a key unresolved issue in Brexit talks so far. He said that was "an interesting border also."

In the evening, Varadkar returned for the annual shamrock ceremony at the White House, presenting Trump with a bowl of Ireland's famous greens. He again pointed to the importance of immigration, telling Trump that Irish in the U.S. "including those who are undocumented and living in the shadows, love this country dearly. They have the same dreams as the men and women who inspired Washington and fought for Lincoln and work beside you today."

He said the Irish government would continue to work with Trump's administration "to find a solution to this important issue."

The 39-year-old Varadkar is Ireland's youngest prime minister. He's the son of an Indian immigrant and the first openly gay politician in the post. He recalled that he was in Washington years ago as an intern for former Rep. Jack Quinn, R-N.Y., but never saw the Oval Office.