Commencing in January, for the first half of 2013, Ireland‘s Presidency of the Council of The European Union provides a fantastic opportunity for Ireland to yet again punch above its weight in the eyes of China‘s leaders and media.
Moreover, EU-China -related summits in Ireland will provide Europeans with their first real chance to measure the mind-set of China‘s new leadership towards its biggest trading partner.
Hopefully the relevant agencies Tourism Ireland, Bord Bia, Enterprise Ireland, Industrial Development Authority of Ireland (IDA), etc., have given due consideration to the huge marketing potential this unique six month long occurrence offers.
Following on from a very successful trip to Ireland in February 2012 by the incumbent General Secretary of the Communist Party of China, China’s paramount leader Xi JinPing, expect an enduring stream of visits by Chinese leaders and media to our shores, wowed by loads of Irish hospitality (whether a caman, sliotar, bodhran, uilleann pipes, Irish coffee, Guinness, visits to Irish farms), intertwined with stunning rustic backdrops, a clear understanding of what Ireland has to offer as world-class centre of excellence in sciences, software and telecoms, financial and education services, and in terms of investment and Euro Zone access opportunities for Chinese companies: All aimed at ensuring their visits to Ireland will be in their minds for a very long time when they return home to China.
Huge Opportunities lie waiting for Irish businesses in China, but know your market
From Ireland’s ‘Business and Finance’ magazine’s ‘Enterprise Insight’ supplement, Q2 2008 edition, by Niall O’ Reilly
The world’s second largest economy China, is now the largest market in Asia, and outside the Euro Zone only second to the USA for Ireland’s exports. According to the latest figures from the Central Statistics Office (CSO) exports to mainland China (excluding the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region) for the first two months of 2008 totalled €324.6 million, a year-on-year increase of 112%. Exports to the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region over the same period reached €110 million.
In the face of the current global economic downturn, a difficult exchange rate and other cost base factors, including the flight of manufacturing processes to low overhead, low material cost countries in Asia and Eastern Europe, as our manufacturers struggle to maintain productivity, the rise in our exports to China is a major achievement and presents convincing evidence that Ireland is at last starting to hit the mark in Chinabusiness. Given that over the past decade the development of our economic and trade relations with China has been a top priority the Irish Government will maintain that its Asia Strategy, with its particular emphasis on China, is the key reason for this positive development. What the CSO figures do not reveal, however, is how indigenous Irish businesses are performing compared to multinationals businesses based in Ireland.
China’s rise to become Ireland’s eight largest export destination is directly linked to its own export prowess and the craving for technology, infrastructure equipment and knowhow by Chinese enterprises that cannot be satisfied by domestic suppliers. From this perspective it is not surprising that the majority of our exports to China should consist of the information communications technology, machinery and equipment China requires to fuel its heady growth. Buoyed by breakneck 7% to 8% GDP growth in China over the past 10 years, a trend that shows little sign of abating, so long as businesses based in Ireland stay ahead of the technology curve and maintain their competitiveness exports to China will only continue to expand, thus strengthening China’s position as a major export market for Irish produce.
Looking ahead, where are the China market opportunities for Irish exporters?
Ireland commands a very strong position in the world trade rankings for internationally traded services. Recently published statistics by the World Trade Organisation 2006 show Ireland as the 12th largest services exporter, commanding a 2.6% share of world trade, while services exports now account for 35% of our total export trade. China has only opened up the service market to any great extent over the past four years and there are clearly significant additional market opportunities now for Irish service exports in engineering consultancy, aviation services, information communication technology, education and tourism services. The latter two service sectors are particularly significant given the rise in the spending power of the Chinese consumer.
According to the China National Bureau of Statistics, in 2007, China’s retail spending rose 16.8 percent to 8.92 trillion Yuan (US$1.24 trillion), thus adding credence to a widely held view that Chinese demand will this year for the first time become the main driver of world economic growth, with the increase in its domestic spending in current dollar terms contributing more to global growth than US domestic demand. As such, Irish suppliers should be relishing lucrative domestic sales opportunities presented by an increasingly affluent population.
Located two hours south of Shanghai is the prosperous city of Hangzhou, Marco Polo’s ‘paradise on earth’, which Forbes ™ Magazine has repeatedly rated as China’s premier business centre. With a registered population of 6.7 million inhabitants and an urban per capita income of RMB21,689, Hangzhou provides the ideal glimpse into the phenomenal growth in the purchasing power of China’s increasingly affluent middle class. Not only do Bentley, Maserati, Ferrari, and Prada showrooms do a thriving business here, even more remarkable is the thirst to travel abroad whether as tourists, with Paris and London high on the list of preferred destinations, or graduate students from the third ranked university in China, Hangzhou’s Zhejiang University, seeking further education in the best schools in Europe and the USA.
As individual prosperity rises so too are people becoming increasingly concerned about their living conditions. Recognising such anxieties, and looking ahead to population growth of close to 20 per cent over the next five years, in addition to the huge infrastructure building projects already underway, the Hangzhou Municipal People’s Government is actively encouraging projects focused on providing fuel efficiency, cleaner water, better sanitation, and power generation, all of which whether in material or service form present significant opportunities for Irish suppliers.
As patterns of consumption change, to reflect those found in wealthier countries, such as higher levels of meat consumption, the opportunities for Irish suppliers in the development of both the food ingredients market, such as diary fats and proteins, standard cereal and grain products and flours, vegetable oils, or standardised high-quality meat products, and markets for the products of large scale cropping and livestock activities, become all the more apparent. In 2005, Kerry Group quick to seize the market opportunity established its state-of-the-art China manufacturing, technical and administrative facilities in Hangzhou.
However, remove the rose-tinted glasses and it quickly becomes apparent that in China the size of the opportunity is only matched by the difficulty in weighing up the risk, as the great challenges for any Irish supplier in entering what is still a relatively immature market quickly become apparent. China’s rapid growth since its 1978 opening to the world has not necessarily meant greater transparency.
Making sound business decisions can be very difficult when there is little timely information available, and when the information available is either unreliable, or misleading. What’s more, a simple misunderstanding of local business practices, which can be very different from what is taken for granted in Ireland, can harm efforts to develop solid business relationships and leverage them into strategic opportunities. As Kerry, CRH and Glen Dimplex have found, there is an inherent need for proximity to the customer base for supplying many services. However, this forces small and medium exporter into the high cost of establishing a commercial presence in the China.
Rather than going it alone, working with either the Irish Exporters Association, Enterprise Ireland, or some of the more experienced homegrown market-entry consultancy practices with experts based on the ground in China, and their ability to access key business and government decision-makers, will greatly assist Irish businesses in getting the most out of the unprecedented opportunities available in China.”
Managing Director, Accurate Group – Ireland China Product & Business Development (Export, Source, Import, Partner Due Diligence) Consultants doing business in China for over 20 years
Wow! It’s already over four years since the last Special Olympics World Summer Games were hosted Dublin. It was the largest sports event ever hosted in Ireland.
From 2nd to 11th October the 2007 Special Olympics World Summer Games will be hosted by Shanghai [http://www.2007specialolympics.com], the first of the three Olympic Games to be staged in China over the next 14 months, including the Summer Olympics and the Paralympic Games to be held next Summer in Beijing.
Unlike now, the days before the Special Olympics World Summer Games 2003 in Dublin were mired in controversy. At the time both Hong Kong and China were affected by the outbreak of the illness known as severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and the Irish Government fearful of SARS spreading to Ireland decided to ban the Hong KongSpecial Olympics team from traveling to Ireland to compete at the Games. There was outrage in Hong Kong with protests outside the office of the Honorary Consul of Ireland. For me what was particular odious about this decision was the fact that business men and women were still allowed to freely travel to Ireland.
In Ireland on the radio, television and in the newspapers there was intense debate about the Irish Government’s decision. Living and working in Hong Kong there was a palpable sense of outage amongst the Irish community. Something had to be done. I decided to write two letters. The first which was published on 6th June, was to the Irish Examiner newspaper, while the second letter was to Chairman of the Organising Committee, Mr. Denis O’Brien (who was also an investor in the company I was working for at the time).
Irish Examiner Newpaper
Friday 6th June, 2003
“Hong Kong’s special athletes hit by a peculiar Irish infection”
I WRITE in response to the latest “final” June 4 decision of the Department of Health and Children’s expert group on SARS and the Special Olympics to maintain its ban on Hong Kong’s disabled athletes travelling to Ireland, thus depriving them of the chance to attend what likely would be the most thrilling event in their lives.
This illogical decision comes after a period of unprecedented high-level dialogue between senior Hong Kong government officials and Irish medical experts in which the Hong Kong side sought to articulate a clearer understanding of the situation and the extra efforts that it would make to guarantee the health of its athletes before departure.
It is almost two weeks since the World Health Organisation (WHO) announced the lifting of its travel advisory against Hong Kong, noting that SARS outbreaks had been contained, which is not much different to its observations regarding the status of Canada and mainland China.
In fact, all new SARS cases confirmed in Hong Kong over the past month (an average of fewer than five cases per day compared to upwards of 60 daily at the end of March) have occurred in people who were already identified as contacts of a person with SARS and under active surveillance by the local health authorities.
None of the Hong Kong Special Olympics athletes hoping to travel to Ireland has had contact with any SARS patients, or any suspected cases.
The WHO has highly commended Hong Kong’s transparency and aggressive Hong Kong Special Olympics procedures.
All close contacts of known SARS cases are quarantined at home.
In addition, their Hong Kong ID numbers are passed to the immigration department to ensure that they cannot leave the territory.
Since the implementation of these rigorous exit-screening procedures at border checkpoints, which also include mandatory temperature checking of all outbound travellers, there have been no reports of internationally exported cases of SARS from Hong Kong.
What is more, the US Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has recommended against cancelling or postponing gatherings that will include people travelling to the US from areas with SARS, and the quarantine of persons arriving from SARS-affected areas who have shown no fever or respiratory symptoms.
As such, over the past fortnight Hong Kong exhibitors have been welcomed to the Las Vegas Jewellery Fair and the Cannes Film Festival as a result of the precautionary measures that the exhibitors had undertaken voluntarily.
And yet, it is against such transparency that Ireland still maintains its travel ban depriving athletes, some of whom have trained for up to eight years and whose team won 53 gold medals at the last Special Olympics, their chance to be the pride of Hong Kong.
Remarkably, no such travel ban has been imposed on other travellers from Hong Kong seeking entry to Ireland.
This ‘final’ decision appears not only irrational, but also hypocritical, given the latest guidelines conveniently lifting the travel ban on athletes from cities and regions where local transmission of SARS has not been reported, meaning that the Special Olympic Games will not be devoid of two of the largest participating teams, Canada and China.
It demonstrates that the Department of Health and Children has chosen not to follow the WHO‘s advice and made a decision without due regard to the precautionary measures that the Hong Kong Special Olympics Committee had proposed to take before their departure for the games.
The official flag presentation ceremony for the Hong Kong Special Olympics team is set to take place here on June 8, an event supported by The Hong Kong Gaelic Athletic Association, the St Patrick’s Society of Hong Kong, the Irish Business Forum and Enterprise Ireland.
It is the fervent wish of the Irish community in Hong Kong that the Irish government remove this unnecessary travel ban.
15, Mosque Street,
[Source: This story appeared in the printed version of the Irish Examiner Friday, June 06, 2003
Three days before the Opening Ceremony in Dublin, without prior notice,at 3.00 am I was awaken by the loud ringing sound of my telephone. On the other end of the line was Denis O’Brien excitedly describing the excellent news that the Irish Government had decided to lift its travel ban and that the special athletes from Hong Kong were free to travel to Ireland. Denis O’Brien also offered to send his private jet to collect the Hong Kong team from London.
The Special Olympics World Summer Games in Dublin were a wonderful success, and I have heard from several people who were lucky enough to attend, the Opening Ceremony or witness it television that one of the most emotional memories of the evening was the arrival in the Croke Park stadium of the Hong Kong team when the packed house of 80,000 people stood up to cheer them these very special athletes.
For me the abiding memory that will stay with me is being invited to represent the Irish Community of Hong Kong at the welcome home ceremony for the successful Hong Kong team. The sparkling smiles on the faces of the Hong Kong Special Olympics athletes, bedecked with gleaming gold and silver medals, will always stay in my mind.
“On June 19, I had the privilege of carrying the Olympic Torch – or Flame of Hope as it is called – and leading the Final Leg Torch Run team into Clonmel. Clonmel is a town of about 25,000 people and I would estimate that about half were on the streets to greet us. I have never seen so many Hong Kong flags in my life. They flew from the rooftops, from the buildings, from the churches and from the hands of thousands of people on the streets. And everyone was shouting Hong Kong! Hong Kong! at the tops of their voices.
“We ran into the town square where the Lord Mayor was present to greet us. I handed over the Flame of Hope. The Mayor took me to one side and told me that the Hong Kong team had not arrived. They were still in Macao under quarantine for SARS.
“To have run so far (over 200 miles) and not see the Hong Kong team was heartbreaking. I am not ashamed to say that I fell to my knees and wept.
“However, the Mayor told me that the Hong Kong team would be arriving in Dublin the following day and that a delegation from Clonmel would go to meet and welcome them. On the evening of June 21, we carried the Flame of Hope into Croke Park, Dublin, for the start of the games.
“The Special Olympics teams then marched into Croke Park in alphabetical order. I heard the master of ceremonies say “And now I see a particular team coming into the stadium. This is a team that we thought we would never see. But now they are here and we are so pleased to see them. Give a big, big welcome for Hong Kong!” About 85,000 people stood up and at the tops of their voices shouted: Hong Kong! Hong Kong! The noise was unbelievable! But it was obviously inspiring Ñ the Hong Kong Special Olympics team won 31 medals at this year’s games.
“I had a wonderful career with the Hong Kong Police Force and have had a wonderful life. But nothing in my experience is likely to top the emotion that I felt running for Hong Kong on the Law Enforcement Final Leg Torch Run.”
And so fast forward to late next week when a delegation of 1,000 Irish Special Olympians and their families will arrive in Shanghai to participate in the Special Olympics World Summer Games, 2007. Let the Games begin!
[Note: Special Olympics is an international non-profit organization dedicated to helping individuals with intellectual disabilities to become physically fit, productive and respected members of society through sports training and competition]
Note: My review of the Special Olympics World Summer Games, 2000, in Shanghai ‘Words matter: Mentally retarded or human gift? Looking back at the Special Olympics World Summer Games in Shanghai’ is posted here: