Steadily and rapidly
Europe’s fastest-growing economy, Ireland, excited about import expo
China International Import Expo (CIIE) opened in Shanghai on Monday and will run until November 10. The world’s first import-themed national-level expo has attracted a total of 172 countries, regions and international organizations to showcase their products and achievements.
Ireland, one of the exhibitors, will attend the expo with 20 Irish companies from different industries and sectors. Heather Humphreys, Minister for Business, Enterprise & Innovation of Ireland, recently conducted an email interview with the Global Times to introduce their plans for and expectations of the expo, bilateral trade between China and Ireland, as well as China’s Belt and Road initiative. Below are excerpts of the interview.
GT: How will Ireland participate in CIIE? What goals do you hope to achieve through CIIE?
Humphreys: There will be quite a few Irish companies from multiple sectors including industrial, service, consumer, travel and technology exhibiting their products and services at our country’s stand. As Ireland is renowned for the high quality of its food products, Ireland’s F&B industry will have a strong presence at CIIE with over 11 industry-related companies participating.
Speaking about what goals we want to achieve through CIIE, I hope that Irish companies will gain a better understanding of the Chinese market. At the same time, Chinese companies will be able to learn more about Ireland, do business with Irish companies and even invest in Ireland itself. The expo is also catering to the message sent by the Chinese government to encourage Chinese companies to learn more from foreign companies and conduct more international trade and investment.
GT: This year marks the 40th anniversary of China’s reform and opening-up. When were Irish products first exported to the Chinese market? Compared with today’s China, are there any noticeable changes?
Humphreys: The first time that an Irish product was exported to the Chinese market could be traced back to the 1970s. Enterprise Ireland, the main government agency supporting Irish companies exporting to overseas markets, was established earlier than the Embassy of Ireland.
However, at that time, the predominant exports from Ireland were raw materials, like sheep’s wool. Now, food, technology, service and equipment are key areas. Especially food; China is now the third-largest market for Irish food, with trade in 2017 valued at 8 billion yuan ($1.16 billion). Business has doubled over the past five years alone.
China became much more open to imports from abroad, and its latest 5-year plan supports this, as it places greater emphasis on domestic consumption of imported goods. And for China to host CIIE also shows incredible progress.
GT: How important is the Chinese market and its consumers to Ireland? Do you plan to invite more Irish companies and products to expand into China in the coming years?
Humphreys: Enterprise Ireland’s client companies’ exports to China grew 5 percent to reach record levels of 1.07 billion euros ($1.22 billion) in 2017. Thus, China now accounts for 52 percent of client exports to AsiaPacific region and 4.4 percent of global exports.
In terms of further expansions, we have a goal of increasing exports to Asia-Pacific region by 50 percent from
2 billion euros to
3 billion euros by
2020. And this includes a goal of
1.6 billion euros in exports to China by
The recent decision by the Chinese government to allow access to Irish beef provides an opportunity to grow our trade further. Our objective in the food business is to build strategic partnerships that benefit both countries and provide Chinese consumers with premium, safe and naturally produced products.
GT: In 2017, bilateral trade between China and Ireland exceeded $10 billion for the first time in history. How will Ireland collaborate with China in the future, especially under the Belt and Road initiative?
Humphreys: The ambitions of both the Chinese government and China’s private sector to improve the competitiveness of Chinese products has driven demand for foreign technology and expertise to satisfy gaps in the domestic market. This, too, has created immense opportunities for overseas businesses. Significant Irish development has allowed us to capitalize on these opportunities in different sectors, including high-quality dairy and food products and agritech, education, ICT and software, pharmaceutical and pharm engineering and financial services and fintech.
The Belt and Road initiative is a great opportunity to expand existing cooperation in trade and investment as new trade deals can be accessed with other countries. There are many areas that Ireland would like to collaborate with China, so we welcome Chinese companies to visit our stand at CIIE to chat with us about your interests.
GT: What do you think of China’s Belt and Road initiative? What investing opportunities may it bring to Ireland? What are the unique advantages of Ireland for Chinese Investors?
Humphreys: For Ireland, it will be much easier for distributors and manufacturers to deliver products to China as a result of the extensive infrastructure being put in place. I can see strong potential for Chinese companies to invest in Ireland and use Ireland as a platform to support their global market.
Next year will be the 40th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and Ireland. This stable political environment helps Chinese companies develop steadily and rapidly in Ireland. Additionally, Ireland is the fastest-growing economy in Europe. The corporate tax in Ireland is only 12.5 percent. The government also gives financial support to R&D projects.
Top: Heather Humphreys, Minister for Business, Enterprise & Innovation of Ireland; Main: Cows graze on a grassy field in Tipperary, Ireland.