Report encourages Irish exporters to look east for new markets
Ireland's major trade partners in Asia are expected to increase their demand for imports, representing a huge opportunity for exporters.
A new report authored by economist, Sunday Independent columnist and Newstalk broadcaster Marc Coleman considers 16 Asian countries that together receive just 6pc of Irish exports - leaving significant room for expansion.
Mr Coleman told the Irish Independent that the opportunities Asian trade presents to Ireland are "absolutely staggering".
"Demographically we're only doing 6pc of our trade with an area of the world that has three billion people in it. Think about that for a minute. Most of our trade is done with the western half of the planet, which means we're only scratching the surface of potential."
The report was commissioned by independent think tank Asia Matters, whose executive director Martin Murray and director of operations Ronan Lenihan are currently in Asia promoting greater trade links between Ireland and the region.
Mr Coleman says Irish companies also have an "e-commerce opportunity."
"Asians are basically bypassing the landline technology that we grew up with, and they're going straight into the world of e-commerce, online buying, with very, very high and rising rates of mobile phone usage and internet usage."
"The third aspect of this opportunity is urbanisation. Hundreds of millions of Asians in Indonesia, China, India, are going to be migrating from rural to urban areas.
"What that means for Irish exporters, particularly of food produce, is that whereas previously all these people, they were there but they were spread over an awful lot of smaller towns and villages which were hard to access. They're now going to be clustered in fairly well defined and easy to reach urban areas which are well provided with infrastructure."
The Asia Matters report states the Government needs to provide exporters with the resources to tap into the market, and the networking access they will need.
"The IDA has been hugely successful attracting FDI into the country. And it's had a well staffed, well resourced cadre of highly-trained individuals. We're not going to win this one without doing the same for Asia," report author Mr Coleman said.
"We're not talking about a massive super quango, we're just talking about a modestly-sized organisation that is reasonably well staffed with expertise to crack open this market.
"The IDA, Enterprise Ireland and the Department of Foreign Affairs are already doing good work consolidating and collaborating their embassies in this part of the world, but if you compare us with Denmark for example, we still have further to go in terms of getting people and offices on the ground in Asia - which our small and medium-sized enterprises can then use to basically have maximum access to this area
"But even when they go in, those companies themselves are not only going to have to develop language skills, they're going to have to develop very highly tuned cultural skills. Business is done differently in this part of the world. It's more subtle and success in Asia depends so much on understanding that."