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Kerry CEO: Ireland as Europe's 'gateway'

By CNN Wire staff
updated 12:34 PM EST, Thu January 17, 2013
  • Kerry CEO McCarthy says the Irish economy will be "much wiser" once it recovers
  • Ireland has a corporation tax of 12.5%, which is lower than many of its European partners
  • McCarthy says that Kerry Group and Ireland have benefited from EU membership

(CNN) -- Multinationals see Ireland as the "gateway" to Europe, says the boss of the country's largest food company.

Stan McCarthy, chief executive officer of Kerry Group, told CNN that the Irish economy is "very progressive."

He added: "I think it [Ireland] recognizes that it cannot rely totally on its own market and it has to look internationally to develop an economy. We have been very successful at attracting multinationals into Ireland."

This attraction is mainly the result of Ireland's low corporation tax, which currently stands at 12.5% and has led to a number of companies becoming headquartered in Ireland.

The tax rate is far less than France's, at 33%, and the United Kingdom's, at 24%. This is an issue that has riled Ireland's European partners, given the country's request for sovereign aid from the eurozone's rescue funds in 2010.

Prior to the financial crisis of 2008, Ireland was described as the "Celtic Tiger" of Europe, due to its rapidly expanding economy and booming property sector. But following a collapse in its banking sector, the country fell on hard times.

McCarthy is confident the Irish economy will come back "much wiser" and "pragmatic" than before, with a focus on prudence.

He told CNN: "I hope the Celtic Tiger does not come back in terms of legacies that still exist."

On Europe, McCarthy told CNN that Kerry Group is not "turning its back" on the continent and insists that European Union membership has been very positive for the food company and Ireland.

He added: "Prior to Ireland joining the EU we didn't have exposure to the international markets that we enjoy today, we were somewhat insular in our thinking and it has certainly provided us with the opportunity to take a much more global perspective."

CNN's Oliver Joy contributed to this report.

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