The Asia Trade Forum, an initiative of the Irish Exporters' Association, which was set up to boost two-way trade with this part of the world, is planning a major business mission to two of China's leading business cities, Suzhou and Hangzhou next month.
The mission will be similar to last year's visit to India, on which 40 Irish firms took part, said Hugh Kelly, vice-president of the Irish Exporters' Association and chairman of the Asia Trade Forum.
China is forecast to be Ireland’s fourth largest export destination by 2030, overtaking countries such as France and Japan.
“The statistics speak for themselves and emphasise why looking east for export growth is an imperative for Irish companies,” said Mr Kelly. “Projected growth rates in Irish exports to China of up to 11 per cent per annum up to 2030 are expected, followed closely by growth in exports to India and other Asian markets such as Vietnam, Malaysia and Indonesia.”
By 2017, China is projected to overtake the US as the largest economy in purchasing power parity terms: by 2050, India is set to become the third largest global economy after China and the US.
Demand for more sophisticated products in places like China and India is expected to grow, while people are shifting out of China into new, low-cost manufacturing centres.
All of this will force change in trade patterns and how manufacturing companies operate.
“New partnership opportunities will present themselves for Ireland, said Mr Kelly. Ireland has a proven track record in ICT, farm and food technology, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, medical devices and many other specialisations.
The visit to China will be followed up by a similar one to southeast Asia later in the year and will coincide with the Asia-Pacific Irish Business Forum in Kuala Lumpur.