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Go East- helping Irish companies do business in Asia

You would have had to be living under a rock for the last four years to avoid hearing the phrase “export led recovery”. When seeking to highlight avenues of potential growth, politicians and commentators have a favourite child; purchasers of Irish goods and services who don’t reside in Ireland. The biggest problem for indigenous Irish companies looking to sell their goods and services into new markets is that, like most things in business, the reality is never quite as simple as the headline.

This is coupled with another significant challenge; our traditional and dominant export markets, such as continental Western Europe, Britain and the US, are all facing their own economic strife. In fact, never mind this economic hardship- their politicians’ are using exactly the same export-laden rhetoric as ours! Additionally, these markets now represent an ever decreasing proportion of the worlds’ GDP.

To summarise; marketing your business overseas has never been so important…but you may need to look further a field than you ever have before.

Enter Asia. Of the four much-talked-of BRIC economies- countries that have experienced turbo-charged industrialisation and growth to become economic powerhouses- Asia contains two of the letters that make up this acronym: India and China (the others being Brazil and Russia). According to many forecasts, China and India will be two of the world’s three largest economies by GDP before 2020. In addition, many of the economies that are being touted as the “new BRICs” are also in the Asia Pacific region; countries such as Vietnam and Indonesia.

Going into a new market is fraught with potential challenges, whether this is in terms of getting over barriers of cultural difference, the cost of researching and establishing a presence or understanding the nuances of doing business in a different country. And it is because of these challenges that an initiative aimed at providing education and insight into doing business in Asia is both timely and welcome.

Such an initiative has come in the form of the Asia Trade Forum (ATF), which was established by the Irish Exporters Association in 2012 “to promote new strategies for Irish exporters to build trade with Asian markets”. Last week saw the official launch of a 2013 season, consisting of seven events and focusing on a range of Asian countries and regions. Proceedings start with a workshop concentrating on business opportunities in China- this takes place in Croke Park on April 24th and is free to attend- further details are available online at I will be writing posts in the coming months on what promises to be a series of informative lessons from veteran Irish businesses.

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