Irish making openings all over Asia

Tue, Oct 30, 2012, 00:00

IRELAND’S BUSINESS community in Asia gathered in the Malaysian capital, Kuala Lumpur, last week for the Asia Pacific Ireland Business Forum, discussing ways to boost Ireland’s presence in the world’s most populous continent.

Established in 2007, the APIBF aims to leverage the GAA network in Asia, and every year has an event at the annual Asian GAA Games in whatever city they are taking place, using the fact that so many Irish are in town for the event.

The meeting is always an eye-opener as to the reach of the Irish community in the continent, with representatives from pretty much every country in Asia.

The meeting has been hosted successively in Penang 2008, Bangkok 2009, Hong Kong 2010 and Seoul last year, and the theme this year was “Asia Now – Maximising Current Business Opportunities for Irish Companies.”

In July, there was an Irish event held in Croke Park, the second year it was held.

“We have a strong track record in regard to education here in Malaysia. I visited the Perdana university where the Royal College of Surgeons is operating, providing the same services as they do at home,” said Joe Costello, Minister of State at the Department of Foreign Affairs.

“We would be interested in expanding our educational offering to other areas, such as engineering. We will see food groups coming in and we are looking for access for beef and pork,” said Mr Costello.

One area where there is cooperation is in linking up the IFSC with the Islamic banking sector. “Both sides are fairly enthusiastic about establishing an Islamic banking centre in Dublin, making Dublin something of a hub for Islamic banking,” said Mr Costello who was lobbied hard by many of the attendees about the fact that Indonesia has no Irish embassy, and he promised to bring the request back to Dublin.

As the world’s fourth-largest country, with nearly 250 million people, it is quite an oversight.

Among the many presentations were talks by Farmleigh fellow Dave Monaghan, Cliona Murphy, director research anddevelopment Pepsi Asia, and the various chambers of commerce across the region, and an entertaining talk by Mícheál Ó Muircheartaigh, the legendary commentator and honorary president of the Asian Gulf Board GAA.

There has been a 17 per cent increase in the number of Irish companies doing business in Malaysia, year-on-year.

This correspondent chaired a meeting of ambassadors in the region, which included Declan Kelly from Malaysia, Joe Hayes from Singapore, Damien Cole from Vietnam, Feilim McLaughlin from India, Declan Kelleher from Beijing, Austin Gormley from Shanghai and Eamonn McKee from Korea.

One fact that was repeated often during the forum was that the euro’s current weakness provided a great opportunity for Irish companies, because Irish goods were suddenly competitive in a way that has not been seen for many years.

The timing of the event in Malaysia was fortuitous. Last week, Malaysia came 12th in the World Bank ranking for the world’s most business-friendly economies and it has set itself a target of being among the top 10 most business-friendly economies globally.

Minister of International Trade and Industry Datuk Seri Mustapa Mohamed said the Doing Business 2013 report affirmed Malaysia’s increasing global competitiveness and that the country now wants to be in the top 10.

“Getting there will strengthen our position as a destination of choice for local and foreign investors,” he told local media.

Malaysia improved its competitiveness in five areas of business surveyed, including ease in getting electricity, where the country’s ranking improved from 59th last year to 28th.