March 6th, 2013 - Pat Breen

Ladies and gentlemen,

I am delighted to be here this evening to celebrate the launch of the ‘Ireland Asia Business Yearbook 2013’ compiled and published by ‘Asia Matters’.

This directory is, I would say, an essential tool for any business enterprise with a drive or remit to expand into new and emerging markets throughout Asia. This book sketches out the cultural differences in how business is conducted across the continent, how to manage meetings and prospective clients and gives the reader an insight into the business culture across the region.

This book comes along at a time when there are many challenges facing the business community in Ireland. The Government is conscious of these challenges and the Programme for Government clearly states that “Ireland’s economic recovery must be export-led.” It will take time and hard work to achieve the maximum growth in exports, including the long-term development of new markets but the key to getting a foothold is to understand the business and administrative culture and environment in the countries we are seeking to open up, a point well made by Martin Murray when he addressed the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Trade in January this year.

It would be difficult for me here to mention all the markets covered in this book but from the large markets of China, Japan, India and Indonesia to the smaller but still significant countries like Singapore and Brunei, the message is the same – Go out, Make the contacts, use the resources of Enterprise Ireland and our diplomatic network abroad, Be patient but Persistent.

Shortly after taking up office, in 2011 An Tánaiste, Eamon Gilmore undertook a trade mission to Asia and we can see already that significant progress has been made by Irish companies expanding into China – in areas like ICT and life-sciences , tourism and the farming & food sectors. At the same time valuable new channels of training and access have opened up across the education, banking and legal sectors.

Ireland’s role in Trade Promotion and Expanding into new markets is a key priority in the work programme ofthe Oireachtas Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Trade. As Chairman of that Committee, I am very conscious of the responsibility that I and the members of the Committee have to work constructively with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade to highlight trade, international cooperation and the growth potential to the economy by expanding into other markets and promoting FDI.

At present we are working on a report on the contribution of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade to Economic Recovery. The aim of the report is to examine the strategy and response of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade to the economic crisis in terms of trade promotion and economic and reputational recovery.
In preparing our report we have, over the last year, held a series of meetings with Departmental officials, representatives of State Agencies, business networks – including Asia Matters and private sector organisations.

I place a high value on the relationships that the Committee is building with these organisations and individuals and the engagements that we have with people like Martin Murray, the State Agencies, the Irish Exporters and IBEC – who have all contributed in identifying how we can tap into the potential markets abroad and how we can best exploit trade and investment opportunities.

In the course of preparing this Trade report I have travelled to the United States and Japan to see at first hand the work that is being carried out by the diplomatic corps, Enterprise Ireland and other Irish agencies and this year I hope to look again at Asia. Indeed, my visit to Japan has given me a very good personal insight into Ireland Asia business relations. For example I know from my own experience there, that in Japan, which is the third largest market in the world, attention to detail and order is of primary importance and this sentiment was echoed in this book by Sean O Driscoll of Glen Dimplex.

I hope that following publication this year of my Committee’s Trade Report it will not only give us a broader understanding of the issues – the challenges and Real potential markets – but in turn help us identify practical ways in which the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and the State Agencies can help Irish companies to access new markets and to build on their presence in existing ones.

I would like to conclude by paying tribute to Martin Murray himself. His experience and drive has enabled him to interact with business interests right across Asia and his insights into Asian culture have been invaluable in this regard. His foresight in January 2012 in founding Asia Matters has helped to enhance EU Asia relations and serves as a conduit to building dynamic links between Irish businesses and their counterparts in Asia.
Finally, key to this book is its ability in a snapshot to identify the primary markets and then give personal and particular insights and experiences from individual businessmen and women. It allows us to identify with those who may be in a different cultural market but whose drive, aims and commitment to business success are exactly the same as ours. I wish you well, and I can tell you – I will have a thorough read of the many contributions in this book before I embark on any further Asian trade missions.

Thank you