Brexit: Australian minister sees opportunities for Ireland

Steven Ciobo says Australia wants a ‘high-quality’ free trade deal with the EU

A number of Australian companies operating in Europe are likely to look at locating activities in Ireland because of Brexit, the country's trade minister said in Dublin on Thursday.

Speaking at an event organised by the Irish Australian Chamber of Commerce, Steven Ciobo said that while many Australian businesses would continue to maintain a presence in London after Brexit, some would look to establish operations in Dublin and Ireland.

Mr Ciobo also encouraged Irish businesses to avail of the preferential market access that Australia affords as a bridge into Asia. “You will not regret expansion into a highly dynamic, competitive and developed economy like Australia nor will you regret having access to a market [Asia] with in excess of two billion people with the best market access than any other country globally.

“Likewise, I will be speaking to Australian businesses about the incredible opportunities that exist in Europe and why they should consider, with the uncertainty surrounding Brexit, a destination like Dublin ... as a possible destination for the expansion plays in Europe.”


Australia and the European Union recently kicked off formal negotiations on what Mr Ciobo described as a "high-quality" free trade agreement. "I want to make sure that we are opportunistic in terms of making sure we can reach our full potential between the EU, including Ireland, and Australia," he said.

No swamping

Mr Ciobo said Australia was not looking to swamp European markets with its agricultural produce, contrary to popular opinion. “We produce enough food to feed about 60-70 million people. We have a domestic population of 25 million people ... the demand we have from the 1.3 billion people in China, and the hundreds of millions of people in Japan, Korea, and Indonesia ...We cannot meet the demand that’s coming out of our region.”

He said it would be a “great shame to see the tremendous potential of this [free trade] deal being hijacked by narrow interests in the agricultural sector”, especially as agriculture accounts for just 2-3 per cent of the Australian economy.

“Our offensive interests in terms of Australia and the EU with respect to a trade agreement is driven by the 75 per cent of the Australian economy that is actually driven by services. Let’s grow the pie together,” he said.

Ireland is Australia’s 27th biggest export market, while Australia is 44th for Ireland. The total value of merchandise trade between the two countries is about $1.9 billion Australian (€1.2 billion), with Irish exports accounting for all bar $98 million of that figure.

Ciarán Hancock

Ciarán Hancock

Ciarán Hancock is Business Editor of The Irish Times