Wednesday 18 September 2019

Big jump in Irish firms targeting Asia for exports

East seen as a key driver in the bid to diversify away from the British market

'This has been greatly helped by the direct air links we now have from Dublin to Beijing and Hong Kong'. Stock image: Sean Pavone
'This has been greatly helped by the direct air links we now have from Dublin to Beijing and Hong Kong'. Stock image: Sean Pavone

Fearghal O'Connor

More than a fifth of Irish exporters plan to diversify into the Asia-Pacific region over the next 12 months, according to Enterprise Ireland.

Over 650 companies took part in the state agency's International Markets Week event last week during which they were asked about their diversification plans.

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Tom Cusack, the head of the Asia-Pacific region for Enterprise Ireland, said that "22pc of them told us that there plans were to look at the Asia-Pacific region for diversification over the next 12 months."

He added: "Over the last 12 months we have seen a big uptick in terms of interest in the region. This has been greatly helped by the direct air links we now have from Dublin to Beijing and Hong Kong and there has been a rise in the number of Irish companies that are actively travelling out to the market to look at an opportunity."

Cusack said that the number of opportunities was being driven by strong growth rates in the region - on average, 6pc per annum. The recent protests in Hong Kong - a popular entry point to the market for Irish companies - had caused some slowdown but Australia, New Zealand and Singapore are also popular gateways.

"We are also witnessing one of the upsides of Brexit for our companies in Asia. One of the bigger sectors for us in Asia would be education, whereby students come to Ireland. The UK exiting the EU will leave Ireland as the only English-speaking market in the EU in which to study so that creates an opportunity," he said.

Cusack said the Asian market was already worth €100m to Irish education companies but the sector was also important because of how it was increasing the overall profile of Ireland across the region.

"You have a lot of Asians - Chinese, Koreans, Indonesians - who travel to Ireland to study and spend anywhere between two and five years here," he said.

"They have a really strong affinity with Ireland going back to their countries and often want to keep that connection and are very interested in working for an Irish company back in their home country. It is almost like a reverse diaspora."

Other sectors in which Irish companies are currently seeking Asian growth include financial services, fintech and agritech.

"Because of the growing middle class in Asia and the pressure on food systems, a lot of our companies in this sector who have had success in New Zealand are beginning to move up through the region into places like Vietnam and Korea," Cusck said.

Enterprise Ireland aims to increase overall export numbers to markets other than the UK by 50pc in a bid to add a further €4bn to total exports.

"That means adding an additional half a billion euros worth of exports into the Asia-Pacific region over the next two years," he said. "We've already doubled the amount of exports to the region over the last number of years," said Cusack.

Sunday Indo Business

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