| 13.9°C Dublin

Ireland’s trade outlook is hindered by the legacy of our past – and we should be looking to Asia

Between 2007 and 2017, Ireland’s two-way trade with Asia more than doubled. Let’s do it again

Close

Martin Murray, executive director of the Asia Matters think-tank

Martin Murray, executive director of the Asia Matters think-tank

Japanese prime minister Fumio Kishida

Japanese prime minister Fumio Kishida

Taoiseach Micheál Martin with Japan's PM Fumio Kishida at the Japan-Ireland Summit in Tokyo on July 20, 2022

Taoiseach Micheál Martin with Japan's PM Fumio Kishida at the Japan-Ireland Summit in Tokyo on July 20, 2022

Former Japanese PM Shinzo Abe, who was murdered in July

Former Japanese PM Shinzo Abe, who was murdered in July

/

Martin Murray, executive director of the Asia Matters think-tank

A radical rethink on how we do business with Asia is required, if Ireland’s vision of two-way trade worth €100bn with the world’s wealthiest region is to become reality.

The Government published its ambitious trade plan in the document ‘Delivering in the Asia-Pacific Region to 2025’ at the start of 2020.  

However our exports to Asian markets declined – mainly due to Covid – falling 1pc to €2.14b by the end of 2020. 

Members of Asia Matters, Ireland’s only Asia think-tank, know that sustainable business growth across the region greatly depends on our ability to understand and engage with the right partners in a meaningful way.  

When doing business in Asia, you get back what you put in.

Official visits, like the Taoiseach’s recent four-day tour of Singapore and Japan, create momentum to create and drive new initiatives to boost bilateral trade.

One opportunity we would like to see arising from the trip would be to prioritise Japan opening a Japan External Trade Organisation (JETRO) office in Dublin.  

Close

Taoiseach Micheál Martin with Japan's PM Fumio Kishida at the Japan-Ireland Summit in Tokyo on July 20, 2022

Taoiseach Micheál Martin with Japan's PM Fumio Kishida at the Japan-Ireland Summit in Tokyo on July 20, 2022

Taoiseach Micheál Martin with Japan's PM Fumio Kishida at the Japan-Ireland Summit in Tokyo on July 20, 2022

JETRO is the Japanese government agency responsible for promoting trade between Japan and the rest of the world.  

In Atlanta, Georgia, where JETRO has an office, there are 400 Japanese companies. In Ireland, where there isn’t a JETRO office, that number is 40. 

When Taoiseach Michéal Martin recently turned the sod at Ireland House in Tokyo, it marked a key phase in the Department of Foreign Affairs’ biggest ever capital investment project.  

Scheduled for completion in 2024, the €21m building will not only house the new Irish Embassy in Japan, it will also be home to Tourism Ireland, Bord Bia, Enterprise Ireland and IDA Ireland. 

Two-way trade with Japan is now worth almost €20bn, and Ireland House will no doubt become a major staging post for Irish companies looking to do even more business in the world’s third largest economy. 

Close

Former Japanese PM Shinzo Abe, who was murdered in July

Former Japanese PM Shinzo Abe, who was murdered in July

Former Japanese PM Shinzo Abe, who was murdered in July

As a follow up to this visit, it would do our country’s reputation no harm if Mr Martin or Mr Varadkar joined other global leaders in Japan on September 27, to attend the state funeral of the country’s former prime minister Shinzo Abe. 

Business Newsletter

Read the leading stories from the world of business.

This field is required

As someone who has lived and worked in Japan, and who speaks the language daily, I know our attendance would be treated as a mark of respect and be remembered by the Japanese people. 

But Ireland still needs to do much more to strengthen our trade links with Asia. 

Our next mission, if you pardon the pun, should be to encourage a Singaporean embassy in Dublin. 

The fact that an economic powerhouse like Singapore, where English is an official language, does not have an ambassador in Ireland is a cause for great concern. 

Close

Japanese prime minister Fumio Kishida

Japanese prime minister Fumio Kishida

Japanese prime minister Fumio Kishida

As farcical as it sounds in this post-Brexit era, Ireland is run out of Singapore’s embassy in England. Though we are the largest English-speaking country in the EU, we are literally a subsidiary of Singapore’s London office.  

Forging stronger links with Singapore would also give our businesses better access to the vast Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) market.  

As well as Singapore, the ASEAN trading bloc includes nine other states – Brunei, Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos, Myanmar, Malaysia, Philippines, Indonesia, and Thailand. In 2020, its GDP was just over US$3 trillion.  

It is a massive market – but out of all the ASEAN countries only Malaysia has an embassy in Ireland. That needs to change. 

We must take our opportunities when they present themselves if we want two-way trade between Ireland and Asia to rise to €100bn by 2025.   

Hitting the €100bn mark in trade with Asia is no pipe dream

When doing business in Asia, you get back what you put in. It takes time and effort.

We must also ask ourselves what are other smaller countries doing. Take Denmark, for example. With a population of 5.8 million, it is roughly the same size as Ireland – but it exports almost as twice as much to the Asian region.  

Ireland punches above its weight globally because of the quality of our people, but we need more boots on the ground in Asia to compete effectively and grow trade.

Our strongest trading partners remain Europe and America, where the combined economies account for less than 44pc of global GDP – as opposed to Asia, where just under half of the world’s wealth is created.  

We are hindered by the legacy of our past – a legacy which has left the country stuck in English-language mode when we should really be focusing on the emergent markets of the future instead. 

Hitting the €100bn mark in trade with Asia is no pipe dream. Between 2007 and 2017, Ireland’s two-way trade with the region more than doubled, from €23bn to €56bn.   

There is no reason why it cannot double again.

Asian Matters executive director Martin Murray is also the Honorary Consul of the Republic of Indonesia in Ireland. With 20 years experience of working in EU-Asia trade, public diplomacy and cross-cultural relations, he is recognised as a leading Asia business expert


Related topics


Most Watched





Privacy