'Ambitious strategy' could attract €30bn


IRELAND COULD attract an additional €30 billion in foreign direct investment by adopting an “ambitious strategy” involving US multinationals and Chinese business, a conference heard at NUI Galway (NUIG) yesterday.

Business and energy consultant Leo Corcoran, who is special adviser on China strategy to fund manager EEA Ireland, said opportunities exist to establish a Sino-Irish fund, similar to models in Switzerland, Belgium and Italy.

This would match enterprise creation in Ireland with Chinese access to western intellectual property and business in Europe, Mr Corcoran told the China-Ireland Relations conference at NUIG.

Mr Corcoran said US multinationals with substantial intellectual property assets currently have some two trillion US dollars sitting on balance sheets, awaiting suitable markets and investments.

However, those companies seeking access to the Chinese market were hesitant about investing directly in China, because of lax intellectual property protection enforcement.

Similarly, China has some $2.3 trillion in foreign reserves, with an expanding domestic market, particularly in public procurement, he said.

Under the recent bilateral agreement which the Irish and Chinese governments signed, there was scope for Ireland to create an environment linking the requirements of US multinationals with Chinese foreign direct investment, he said.

Ireland’s strong intellectual property regulations, along with its location, English language and open nature of its economy, gave it an advantage in creating “innovation clusters”. Attraction of “knowledge workers” was crucial to such an approach, and it was widely acknowledged that US immigration legislation was restricting their availability there.

Hewlett-Packard senior manager Dr Chris Coughlan, who chaired one of the conference sessions, noted that the future of Ireland’s economic success “must now be extended from Berlin and Boston to include Beijing”, as in “Ireland’s plan B”.

Also addressing the conference, which was hosted by Fine Gael senator Fidelma Healy Eames, Chinese embassy economic and commercial counsellor

Zhang Shujing said her country was interested in Ireland’s competitiveness in software development information and communication technology and biological pharmaceutical production. It was also keen to study Ireland’s success in “clean technology and environment protection-related industries and its experience in the small and medium enterprise and service industry”, she said.

Minister for Arts Jimmy Deenihan said culture means business”. He had been in discussions with the promoters of Riverdance with a view to identifying business opportunities on the back of its success in China.