Forum aims to boost trade between Ireland and Russia
THE great and the good of Ireland's Russian business community will gather today to discuss trade relations between the two countries.
There is much to celebrate. Irish exports of goods to Russia grew 183pc between 2004 and 2012, with growth potential for bilateral trade in services and goods estimated at around €3bn a year out to 2020.
The world's biggest energy exporter, with a population of 143 million, is the second-biggest trading partner for Ireland among the so-called BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India and China) economies.
Minister of State for Small Business John Perry, who will address the conference organised by the Ireland Russia Business Association (IRBA) and Enterprise Ireland, will tell delegates that official statistics show Irish companies are increasing their presence in Russia.
"Figures for 2012 show exports increased 19pc year on year from 2011 and 61pc from 2010," he said prior to the event.
"Nearly half of these exports are created by indigenous companies that are clients of Enterprise Ireland.
"These figures confirm that doing business in Russia is an important part of the Government's exports and jobs programme."
Although enjoying an economic recovery in 2010/2011, the World Bank has warned that difficulties remain for the Russian economy.
Last year, when the global economy was losing momentum and with the eurozone in recession, Russia was solid, based on domestic consumption, the World Bank said.
But GDP grew 1.6pc in the first quarter of this year – the weakest pace since 2009 – as the eurozone's long recession took its toll.
Russia's growth forecast for the year has been revised downward, but the government says it is adamant that the country will not slip into recession this year. Against this backdrop, Constantin Gurdgiev, the IRBA chair, will highlight the potential for bilateral trade and investment flows between the two countries, and the extraordinary jump in exports over the past decade.
"This potential is fully reflected in the rates of growth in trade in goods, with trade in services showing similar evolution," he says.
"Between 2004 and 2012, Irish exports of goods to Russia grew 183pc against 2.4pc growth recorded in Irish exports to the EU27 and 9pc growth in total Irish exports of goods."
The Russian-born economist said that while the Russian economy is weakening, it is not suffering the same difficulties experienced in Europe.
"It is still a dynamic market. The rate of growth is slowing down, but it is growing," he said.
"I do not see the Russian market currently as being a significant problem from the point of view of Irish exporters."
Mr Gurdgiev said the IRBA is undertaking in-depth research aimed at helping exporters capture opportunities in the Russian market and boost their presence.
"In line with rising domestic consumer demand and the needs for capital imports on foot of large-scale investment, imports of goods and services in the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) and Russia are expected to continue robust growth albeit at much slower rates than those in previous years," he said.
Other speakers at the forum include Gerard MacCarthy, Enterprise Ireland's director for Russia and the CIS; and John Whelan, the Irish Exporters Association's chief executive.
Panellists will include representatives from CRH, NT-MDT, Moscow Financial University, Bank of Ireland and the Irish Translators and Interpreters' Association.