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Why Asia really matters to Irish SMEs

Asia really does matter.

If you don’t know what the following words mean, you are in trouble:

Bonjour , Guten morgen, Buongiorno, Buenos días.

In the Irish language and often in Asia, we prefer to say welcome : Fáilte riamh go léir Selamat dating
. Honjitsu wa oatsumari itadaki, mako ni arigatou gozaimasu. Hang-Ying-Ge-Wei !

This is the century of Asian economic growth
Irish companies should engage with Asia at all levels. This is the century of Asian economic growth with profound implications for Ireland, Europe and the rest of the world. Our Chinese friends would simply state that China is returning to its natural position as the Middle Kingdom. While we in the Eurozone currently face serious economic pressures, there are many countries in Asia like Indonesia experiencing annual GDP growth of 6pc or more.

52% of global GDP
The Asian Development Bank estimates that Asia will double its share of global GDP to 52% by 2050. Of the six billion mobile phones in the world, 3 billion are in Asia.

Asia is a vast region with each country possessing a unique culture and heritage. Like Europe, history really matters and cross-cultural awareness and etiquette are still important amidst a time of rapid technological change and globalisation.

Box above our weight
Though Ireland for historical and geographical reasons has been relatively late to commence engagement with Asia, within ‘Team EU’ we can punch above our weight at the table and do what we Irish do naturally, build mutually positive long lasting relationships.

Ireland as the friendly bridge
Ireland as a small country in Northern Europe with a Southern European culture is the friendly bridge builder of the EU.

We now need to foster markets in places where growth is occurring and the key global economic growth is now in Asia.

US and EU
In the recent past when we opened our country to the US and to Europe, we experienced significant economic development and an increased standard of living.

Ireland brought US multinationals in and transformed our infrastructure, created professional job development opportunities for Irish people and set the scene for creating Irish companies that could sell abroad by competing with the best globally.

Asia as the third opening
Asia represents the third opening of Ireland. To grow we have to promote an ‘Open Ireland’ as a great country to do business in and with. In essence, we must become a business partner trusted by Asia. The Twinning relationship between Beijing and Dublin is a good example of this. As we embrace the Year of the Dragon there has never been a more important time for Ireland to develop partnerships with Asia in the governmental, business, educational and tourism sectors. Some cities in China have bigger populations than the whole of Ireland.

Equally, opportunities exist beyond China. Ireland has a long and interesting relationship with Japan. Lafcadio Hearn’s writings at the turn of the nineteenth century contributed greatly to the deeper awareness of life and culture of Japan to European readers as Japan opened up after two centuries of isolation. Proven high end products from green sector to hitech may have unique opportunities in Japan, which remains an economic powerhouse never to be underestimated.

In ASEAN, the giant country of Indonesia is now very much open for business and eager to engage with international partners.

While Irish companies are making inroads in Asia, over 90pc of Ireland’s exports are from multinationals based here, which essentially means we have to grow indigenous services, such as software, telecoms, legal services, consulting , education and cash payments.

Vast opportunity for Ireland
There are vast opportunities for Ireland in terms of co-operation and development, but this ultimately depends on trust and people-to-people relationships. As in all good partnerships, the best way forward is in a ‘ respect among equals ‘ relationship.

An important annual event in Ireland is the Asia Pacific Ireland Business Forum, which this year will take place in Croke Park on Friday the 13th July. If you are interested in attending and explore the opportunities, register here:

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