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Undeterred by Tax Grab, U.S. Chief Eyes Ireland for Growth

One CEO hasn’t been swayed by Europe’s massive tax impost on Apple. In fact, his business has decided to start growing in the country at the center of the storm.

IrelandThe European Union this week demanded the tech giant pay Ireland back up to $14.5 billion in taxes, a move Apple CEO Tim Cook described as “total political crap” that could lower investment in the region.

But in a sign not all business leaders are running scared, Fitbit CEO James Park says the decision hasn’t affected his company’s plans to expand in Europe.

On Wednesday, the fitness tracker and watch maker opened its Europe, Middle East and Africa office in the Irish capital of Dublin.

“The tax situation is just one of many inputs into our decision making process for opening a new office.”

“The tax situation is just one of many inputs into our decision making process for opening a new office,” Park told CNBC in an interview.

“For us, really Dublin and Ireland has all been about the talent and other aspects to (a) favorable business climate.”

Ireland had attracted Apple and other U.S. multinationals by offering special “sweetheart” tax deals to select companies to encourage them to invest. But that’s exactly what the European Commission—the EU’s executive body—doesn’t want from member states.

The Emerald Isle, however, isn’t just about lower taxes. Its government also has offered more R&D support to companies and relaxed labor laws, while placing emphasis on developing tech skills among young people.

Park said Fitbit hopes to have 50 people in Dublin by year end and 100 by the end of next year.

It’s still unclear, meanwhile, how the Irish government will respond to the EU’s demand.

As the Guardian reports, Ireland’s governing coalition is split on whether it will appeal the European Commission’s ruling.

About Ross Kelly

Ross Kelly
Ross Kelly is a London-based business journalist. He has been a staff correspondent or editor at The Wall Street Journal, Yahoo Finance and the Australian Associated Press.