'Endless' post-Brexit opportunities for Australian trade after EU deal
Negotiator says Ireland can replace UK as key gateway, writes Group Business Editor Dearbhail McDonald
The opportunities for Irish companies to trade with Australia in the wake of a free-trade agreement (FTA) between Australia and the European Union are "endless" according to Australia's chief trade negotiator.
Alison Burrows also said that Ireland could learn valuable lessons on market diversity from Australia which faced significant challenges to its dairy and food markets following 'Brentry' in 1973 when Britain - then one of Australia's biggest trading partners - entered the Common Market.
As Brexit looms, Ireland is fast becoming a key gateway to Europe for Australian and New Zealand companies that have traditionally accessed the EU through the British market. "We're following closely the impact of Brexit on Ireland," said Burrows, who travelled to Europe last week to meet with Irish officials.
"The opportunities are endless. There are advantages for Ireland in an EU free-trade agreement with Australia at a time when Ireland is looking or needs to look for other markets. At a time when you are considering those issues, it's time to look at markets like Australia."
There has been significant growth in trade between Australia and Ireland in recent years, culminating in a high-profile visit to the country by President Michael D Higgins in recent weeks.
The IDA has also confirmed it has received significant interest from companies in Australia that are considering Ireland as an entry point into Europe following the UK's decision to leave the EU.
Ireland imported $103m worth of goods from Australia last year and exported a total of $2.7bn - a jump from just €724m five years ago.
Some 2.4 million people in Australia (around 10pc of the population) claim Irish ancestry and 55,000 Irish people travel there each year for holidays or on summer work visas.
Ireland's main exports to Australia are veterinary products, pharmaceuticals and scientific hardware, and our main imports are veterinary medicine products and wine.
But Ms Burrows said a new FTA could lead to increased opportunities in areas such as food, agri-tech, services, investment and fintech.
Ireland's services exports to Australia were valued at €740m last year, with services imports totalling €340m.
Australian investment bank Macquarie, which already has staff in Dublin, is seeking a full banking licence in Ireland as it seeks to retain access to EU passporting rights post-Brexit.
The president of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker last month placed a high priority on launching and concluding free-trade agreements with Australia and New Zealand in the next two years.
This would mean that the EU, which is Australia's third-largest trading partner, would strike deals before Britain, which cannot negotiate a deal until it leaves the EU in 2019. Agricultural tariffs could prove a stumbling block to the deal, and there is resistance to further agricultural concessions coming from several EU members, including France.
Sunday Indo Business