St Patrick’s Day and China’s NPC offer insights into Ireland’s relationship with Asia
End of annual parliament in China prompts reform calls
The 12th National People’s Congress (NPC) at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China recently. The NPC, the annual gathering of senior Communist Party cadres from all over China to listen to the leadership’s plans for the next 12 months, was a more muted affair than in previous years, but it gave valuable signals as to what kind of business environment Irish companies can expect in future. Photograph: Tomohiro Ohsumi/Bloomberg
Recent weeks have witnessed two events that affect Ireland’s trade with the world’s most populous continent. China’s National People’s Congress (NPC ended in Beijing last week and St Patrick’s Day celebrations were held in cities throughout the region.
The NPC, the annual gathering of senior Communist Party cadres from all over China to listen to the leadership’s plans for the next 12 months, was a more muted affair than in previous years, but it gave valuable signals as to what kind of business environment Irish companies can expect in future.
What goes on at the NPC has significance in the cities of this bustling region and the event is watched closely.
In a candid assessment of China’s economic situation, with a “new normal” gross domestic product target of about 7 per cent, the lowest in decades, premier Li Keqiang insisted the focus was on quality, not quantity, when it came to economic expansion.
The European Chamber said that as China’s economy slows, bold reforms were needed and market access needed to be increased and improved, and protectionist policies held in check.
“The Chinese Government needs to move forward with reforming the Chinese economy and not stop halfway,” said European chamber president Jörg Wuttke. “A greater degree of market opening, in particular an efficient and timely nationwide roll-out of the negative list approach, is what we would like to see.
“There now needs to be tangible improvements to China’s investment environment – something that certain recent policy enactments have cast doubt over.”
Barclays’ emerging markets research team agreed, saying structural reforms remain a top priority for creating long-term sustainable growth.
“Nevertheless, there is no clear indication how fast this may progress. The cyclical downtown has made this area less prominent and urgent, with one exception of combating corruption, where the government highlighted that it will do ‘whatever it takes’,” Barclays said in a research note.
St Patrick’s DayLiam CaseyPCHPeter Ryan
Mr Ryan has said there’s a strong demand for foodstuffs such as milk as evidenced by the fact that 10 to 15 per cent of all China’s infant milk formula comes from Ireland, while our food exports to China have more than doubled to €620 million since 2011.
Hong Kong has a 4,000-strong Irish community and is a big focus for financial services, particularly in the fund management area, where Ireland is battling Luxembourg for dominance.
A ban on beef from Ireland was lifted recently making Ireland the only country to be allowed to export beef to China.
During his visit, Minister for the Environment Alan Kelly held what Ambassador Paul Kavanagh said were “genuinely productive talks” with three Chinese government ministers, including Chen Jining, who took the office as minister of environmental protection, and is widely seen as a force to watch in coming years.
In Shanghai, the Irish community held its annual St Patrick’s celebration at the Shanghai Fashion Centre.
In Singapore, more than 22,000 people attended St Patrick’s Day festivities.