The Aughinish Alumina plant
By Irish Echo Staff
If the European Union and the United States end up in a full scale tariff-based trade war the effect on a County Limerick aluminum plant will have far reaching and negative implications.
Indeed, the effect on the economy of rural Limerick should the plant be badly hit could be “catastrophic,” this according to Fianna Fáil TD, Niall Collins.
Deputy Collins was referring in particular to the role in that economy of the Aughinish Alumina plant in the Shannon estuary.
The Trump administration has held off for thirty days on potential tariffs aimed at the EU, Ireland included.
But that’s no time at all as far as the workers at the plant are concerned.
And there’s an additional factor in play at Aughinish.
It is Russian-owned.
Some 450 employees and a further 250 contractors could be affected if a full blown trade war, in which aluminum products would be a primary target, actually breaks out.
"There is a genuine fear among the community if there are job losses it would have a catastrophic economic impact on the region," Mr. Collins told the Examiner.
The U.S. government, said the Examimer report, has targeted seven Russian oligarchs and 17 Russian government officials with sanctions for what it called "malign activity" around the world.
Among them is Oleg Deripaska of UC Rusal, the company that owns the Limerick plant.
In a statement, the Irish government said officials were keeping the situation under review and were working closely with the company.
A spokesman for the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation said: "The government is very much aware of the risks and is closely engaging with Aughinish Alumina.
"The Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation, IDA Ireland and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, working together, continue to keep the situation under careful review, and IDA Ireland remains in regular contact with the company.
"The Tanaiste and the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation have both been in contact with the CEO, confirming that the government will do everything possible to assist the company.
"Likewise, the CEO of IDA Ireland has been liaising with the CEO of the Aughinish plant. The Taoiseach also met with senior management, including the CEO, in Limerick.
"It will be some time before we are in a position to fully assess the potential impact on the Irish economy of the sanctions announced by the U.S. Department of the Treasury on April 6, which have not yet become fully effective.
"The government continues to closely monitor developments, collaborating across departments, as the situation evolves."
Aughinish Alumina was built more than thirty years ago and, according to the Examiner report, is a significant contributor to the local economy.
The Russian Ambassador to Ireland, Yuri Filatov, when asked about the sanctions during a press briefing, said the factory owner, Russia and Ireland, were all on the same wavelength.
"We are on the same wavelength. Sanctions are not good, that many jobs and the health of a good enterprise is at stake, we certainly repudiate this sanctions policy on the part of the United States which is in this case or in any other cases seem to be extra territorial and imposing on other countries something in Washington they think is in their interest," Ambassador Filatov said.