On March 24 2019, the Sunday times interviewed Simon McKeever on South East Asia trade.

  • Can you outline the opportunity that the Irish Exporters Association believes now exists for Irish companies in the Asia Pacific market and why they need to look at this?

In 2018, Irish exporting companies, for the fifth consecutive year, set a new external trade record selling over €140b worth of goods globally. While our strongest trade partners remain the European Union, the United Kingdom and North America, the APEC (Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation) countries make up a sizable, and increasing, amount of Ireland’s external trade in goods.

The APEC region countries, in particular, offer significant future growth opportunities for Irish exporters, especially for food and beverage exports. In particular, Singapore, Thailand and the Philippines are already popular exporting destinations for the Irish poultry industry and we believe that these markets will offer significant further growth opportunities in the future.

In this context it is important to mention the upcoming EU Free Trade Agreements with regional strategic trading partners such as Singapore, Vietnam and Thailand which are in their final negotiating stages as well as future FTAs with Australia and New Zealand.

Moreover, we also highly welcome the EU-Japan FTA that entered into force on 1 February. Once fully implemented, this will create one of, if the largest free trading area in the world bringing with it opportunities for all exporting industries.

  • How does the IEA support Irish companies in terms of exporting into Asia Pacific (if you like here, can you talk about the difference the work of the Asia Trade Forum made and how the IEA has built on this since the Asia Trade Forum programme finished in 2015)?

I cannot comment on this as I don’t know the background of the Asia Trade Forum. Do you want to say anything in particular?

Our core work in supporting Irish companies when exporting into Asia Pacific is through out Markets Network initiative. The initiative features market-specific seminars and webinars that bring together interested exporting companies with companies that have already established in that market. In addition, for the Markets Network initiative we work closely together with the Irish overseas network and third-countries’ embassies in Ireland to give potential exporters an extensive insight into the specifics and peculiarities of trading with any particular country.

  • Which markets hold the most potential for Irish companies at the moment and why? (any interesting trends/developments)

China, naturally holds vast potential for Irish businesses. With an ever growing middle-class, rising income and western influences and tastes becoming more common, we would expect exports to China further growing. According to CSO data, Irish exports to China surpassed €4.6b in 2018. While this makes China Ireland’s 7th largest export market, the CSO has only seen a marginal  year-on-year trade increase from €4.3b in 2017.

In contrast, Irish exports to Japan for the same period have risen by over 50% from €2.6b in 2017 to €4b in 2018. With the new EU-Japan Free Trade Agreement which entered into force on 1 February 2019 and which removes barriers to trade and, most importantly, eliminates more than 90% of Japanese tariffs on agricultural goods such as beef and cheese. With the Agreement in force now, we expect a further significant growth of Ireland’s trading relationship with Japan in the coming years.

  • Which sectors are most promising for Irish exporters in the region and why (any interesting trends/developments)

Overall, agricultural exports, chemicals and pharmaceutical products as well as heavy machinery manufactured in Ireland prove to be successful exports to the wider APEC region. However, different sectors prove to me more or less successful in different countries depending on indigenous companies, regulations and/or market entry requirements.

For example, while electrical machinery outstrips all Irish exports to China with almost €2b in 2018, medicinal and pharmaceutical goods are Ireland’s primary exports to most other APEC countries.

Moreover, attracted by the high quality and natural and sustainable farming, asian-pacific countries prove to be significant export markets for the Irish meat and dairy industry.

  • What advice would you give to any Irish company that is considering exporting to Asia Pacific markets?

As the Irish Exporters Association, it us our experience that networking with like-minded companies and doing extensive market research are the foundation to exploring new markets to diversify into. Our Markets Network initiative and other events provide companies with that network and the ability to speak and learn directly from the Irish experts in the particular countries.