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China – Under The Hood: Is there really a market for gluten-free food products in China?

A commercial oatmeal producer in Ireland recently sought my opinion regarding China market potential for gluten-free food products.

Gluten-free food China

Before answering, in addition to our own secondary research, I reached out to four China and Hong food procurement experts whose inputs I attach weight to: The procurement directors of both the largest food retailer in the province of Zhejiang and a leading online food platform in China, as well as an established Irish food importer in Hong Kong, and the procurement manager of a leading food retailer in Hong Kong.

Gluten-free food China 2The verdict: As always, China is a very tough nut to crack.  To arrive at an in-depth understanding of the market potential would require a full investigation into the growing instance of coeliac in China brought about as Chinese consumers adopt a more Western lifestyle, with increased consumption of wheat and gluten-containing products. Even so as it stands there is no significant demand for gluten-free products in China.

Until there is large pool of coeliac patients, increasing consumer awareness about coeliac disease and the benefits of a gluten free diet in controlling the symptoms, and rising government funding in the China this position will likely remain unchanged over the next three years, at a minimum.

Present Position

  • Consumer awareness of gluten-free products in China is low, with most gluten-free products being consumed by either the expatriate population or by Chinese High Net Worth Individuals.
  • Its incidence and distribution being largely unknown, officially, rates of coeliac disease in China are also low. As already noted, this lack of evidence indicating the existence, or extent, of coeliac among the Chinese population makes it a challenge to draw objective conclusions regarding the market size of gluten-free food products.
  • On the whole China media have been dismissive of the benefits and need for gluten-free products in China. An example of such sentiment is highlighted in one such article that refers to gluten-free as “an American obsession providing psychological comfort…” openly questioning “are gluten-free foods really better for the body?

(Source: http://www.qdaily.com/articles/28547.html).

Future Scenario

  • Typically, in terms of tackling coeliac as a public health issue, the central government and local authorities would be expected to take the initial lead in directing strategies for coeliac prevention thus raising public awareness and opening the market to local and international manufacturers / brands.
  • There is little doubt a major rise in the prevalence of coeliac is less than a decade away, especially in urban environments where the risk of is becoming a common disease would be higher.
  • With future insight and food allergies becoming more common, a shift in the mindset of Chinese consumers will ultimately push food exporters to phase out gluten and nut products.
  • Direct consequences of the numerous safety scandals that have hitherto plagued China’s food industry have been stronger consumer awareness of harmful food ingredients and more stringent labelling requirements. In this context for the consumer becoming gluten free may be about more the inclusions in a specific food product, not the food product itself.
  • At the most basic level, and this point is worth bearing in mind regarding a potential ‘toe in the waterTaobao (https://world.taobao.com/) or daigou D2C (http://www.daigousales.com/) cross-border ecommerce play, the main factors driving consumer purchasing decisions will continue to be quality and price, rather than following a gluten free diet.

Current gluten-free food / channels in China

  • Tmall http://www.tmall.com[Tmall is the largest business-to-consumer (B2C) retail platform in Asia, and most visited B2C online platform in China]

The following link is in Chinese.

https://list.tmall.com/search_product.htm?spm=a220m.1000858.1000723.2.4a1504c0s85EBC&&from=rs_1_key-top-s&q=%CE%DE%F4%EF%D6%CA%CA%B3%C6%B7

The results from a search for “Gluten Free” in Chinese.  Scroll up and down to review the images and pricing, which is in RMB or CNY [FYI 1 RMB = Euro 0.13 -date 3rd November 2017]. The sales volumes are particularly small given that the fee for setting up a shop-front on Tmall, or selling via such a shop are very high. The market is embryonic.

  • Taobao [Taobao is the biggest consumer-to-consumer (C2C) e-commerce platform based in China]. The following link is in Chinese

https://s.taobao.com/search?q=%E6%97%A0%E9%BA%B8%E8%B4%A8&type=p&tmhkh5=&spm=a21wu.241046-global.a2227oh.d100&from=sea_1_searchbutton&catId=100

The results from a search for “gluten free” in Chinese. Scroll up and down to review the images and pricing, which is in RMB or CNY [FYI 1 RMB = Euro 0.13 -date 3rd November 2017] The sales volumes are somewhat higher given that its only November 3rd… Yet, most of these foreign brands are airmailed from the source directly to the customer once an order has been placed. This maybe a low-cost option for testing the market.  There are other daigou, mobile apps and social network shopping apps that may also be useful for toe dipping. However, gluten-free food producers are not going to generate significant revenue streams from such cross-border channels until knowledge of gluten-free food benefits is much more widespread

Hong Kong?

Beyond the expat community there is “little demand” for gluten-free food products, and that’s from two trusted sources who are my first ports of call for all Hong Kong-related food matters.

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Here’s proof that 2014 was a landmark year in Ireland – China Relations

GREAT WALL OF CHINA BECOMES THE ‘GREEN WALL OF CHINA’ AS IT

The Green Wall of China

In terms of Ireland – China political and trade relations 2014 was a pivotal year. The following birds-eye view draws attention to the main breakthroughs as well as offering a hunch or two regarding how the kinship can be expected to develop into 2015.

Part 1: 2014 – The year that was

Part 2: 2015 – The year that will be

Open Sesame

– Export opportunities

– Strategic sourcing

– Foreign Direct Investment (FDI)

Accurate Group – China Market Makers

Part 1: 2014 -The year that was

Accurate China Insight China Investment Corporation 2014 a pivotal year in china ireland relations– The year had barely commenced when China Investment Corp (CIC) and The National Pension Reserve Fund announced an investment of US$100 million in The China Ireland Technology Growth Capital Fund which is turn will invest in fast-growing Irish start-up technology companies trying to expand into China.

– Another subtle telltale sign of the improving relationship was the Chinese Embassy in Dublin‘s anticipation of ” a need for increased facilities to carry out embassy, consular and state business“, as noted in the Irish Independent last February. It was around this time the Irish Government announced its intention to open a Consulate in Hong Kong.

– The first big dairy export deal of the year was won by Northern Ireland‘s Dale Farm – whey protein, a deal which effectively pushed its annual exports to China up to £20 million a year.

Chinese leasing company Bank of Communications Financial Leasing (JY Aviation) became the third Chinese aircraft leasing company to set up its European headquarters in Dublin..

WrightBus hits the streets of Hong Kong

WrightBus hits the streets of Hong Kong

– In March, Northern Ireland bus-maker Wrightbus of Ballymena won orders for more than 50 new buses in Hong Kong.

– While the photograph of President Higgins of Ireland being welcomed to China by President Xi Jinping in December 2014 represents the highest form of State engagement in diplomatic protocol, perhaps the most iconic image of the Ireland – China relationship in 2014 was the greening of China’s most important cultural icon, the Great Wall to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day.

– Meanwhile, the Bank of Ireland became the first bank in Ireland to offer business customers the facility to make payments in Chinese Yuan / RMB.

– H.E. Xu Jianguo was appointed Chinese ambassador to Ireland. Tellingly, his previous posting was as Chinese ambassador to New Zealand, the main conduit for dairy product imports into China (courtesy of a generous free trade agreement).

– However, the year wasn’t all about agriculture. Tencent, games industry giant and China’s largest and most used Internet service portal, chose Ireland’s Havok to deliver for its Iron Knight game dynamic battlefields, enhanced graphics, efficient character AI, more realistic animations and detailed destruction effects to offer players the most authentic fighting action possible. All-in-all, a huge milestone for Havok, the premier provider of interactive software and services for digital media creators in the games and entertainment industries.

Havok secured a landmark deal with Tencent

Havok secured a landmark deal with Tencent

– In May 30 Irish diary companies had products approved for export to China following stringent audits by Chinese authorities, a significant milestone for Ireland’s dairy industry.

– Also in May, then Minister for Tourism Leo Varadkar leading a trade mission to China commented: “I think everyone accepts that sooner or later there will be direct flights between Ireland and China, most likely Dublin and Beijing...”

– …while a leading tourism survey in China observed that 62% of Chinese travellers were reasonably familiar with Ireland.

– Huawei Technologies, the leading Chinese multinational networking and telecommunications equipment and services giant announced the establishment of a new R&D centre in Athlone.

Huawei opened an R&D centre in Athlone

Huawei opened an R&D centre in Athlone

– ChinaHR, the fast growing Asia-focused recruitment company owned by Leslie Buckley and Denis O’Brien, which employs 2,600 staff in 26 cities across China, was said to be mulling over plans to float in Hong Kong. There was also muted talk (but little substance) of a potential listing in Hong Kong by PCH International, which sells product development and supply chain management services – and is widely considered Ireland’s biggest exporter in China.

– On a serious note the Chinese sheep shearing team arrived in Ireland to compete for the first time in the World Sheep Shearing Championships. On a less serious note, Irish-American comedian Des Bishop wowed Chinese television audiences… in Chinese!

– H.E. Xu Jianguo, the new Chinese ambassador to Ireland, undertook a well-publicised pilgrimage to what Chinese officials consider to be Ireland’s Mecca – the Shannon Free Zone, following in the footsteps of Jiang Zemin’s 1980 trip to study the Shannon Free Zone model, which has since been adopted across China in the development of its hugely successful special economic zones.

– In June, Dublin Airport announced its intention to secure a direct air-link to China by mid-2016.

Accurate China Insight Unionpay 2014 a pivotal year in china ireland relations– June also saw a boost to Irish businesses as AIB Merchant Services enabled acceptance of the Chinese card UnionPay.

– During the same month a new visa to let Chinese tourists travel freely between Ireland and the UK was announced, a significant milestone for Irish tourism.

– Mr. Liu Yunshan, a leading member of the Politburo Standing Committee of the Communist Party of China, was the most senior Chinese official to visit Ireland in 2014. He was accompanied by four ministers in a delegation of fifty-one officials. Since 2011 nearly thirty Chinese Ministers or Vice-Ministers have visited Ireland. Clearly, the Chinese leadership considers a strengthening of the ties between the two nations to be of benefit for China.

– In October it was announced that China is to open a consulate in Belfast, Northern Ireland.

– On the education front, Jan O’Sullivan, Minister for Education and Skills’s trade mission to China in late October was a fitting backdrop to a slew of positive news announcements:

– University College Dublin (UCD) opened an office in Beijing as Irish universities sought to step up their expansion into China. UCD estimated it has 1,000 alumni in China with over 100 based in Beijing.

– Trinity (TCD) announced a new Masters in Chinese Studies and the opening of the Trinity Centre for Asian Studies, which it says “aim to advance Chinese scholarship and to promote Ireland as a leading knowledge centre for pan-Asian language studies and research”.

– University of Limerick (UL) also signed deals with four Chinese institutions.

– In November, as the year drew to a close, Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney led a major trade mission of 37 companies to China. He also had plenty of positive news to announce:

– Kerrygold unveiled a new milk product for Chinese market, under the Chinese trade mark “Jin Kai Li”.

UCD, Irish company Richard Keenan & Co and the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences joined forces to form the China-Ireland Dairy Science and Technology Centre with the goal of improving feeding efficiency, animal health and reduced environmental impact of dairy farming.

– Kerry Group launched a new Irish made infant nutrition product ‘Green Love’ for the China market. Produced at Kerry’s new €40 million facility in Charleville, Co. Cork. More importantly, 100 new jobs were created.

– Glanbia launched its Avonmore UHT milk brand in China.

Glanbia launches Avonmore UHT milk in China

Glanbia launched Avonmore UHT milk in China

Richard Keenan & Co entered into a franchise partnership with Shanghai Shengmu Livestock Company, a €7 million deal to accelerate sales of Richard Keenan‘s mixer wagons across the Chinese market.

A breakthrough year for Richard Keenan & Co

A breakthrough year for Richard Keenan & Co.

– Machinery company Samco, based in Adare, Co. Limerick, secured a purchase agreement with two companies based in Inner Mongolia, Northern China for their SAMCO maize planting machine and bio-degradable mulch film.

– Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM), along with 12 Irish seafood companies, exhibiting to key buyers at the premier China Seafood Expo in Qingdao, highlighting boarfish in particular as a new viable product option.

Accurate China Insight Irish boarfish- 2014 a pivotal year in china ireland relations

– Irish mobile technology company Cubic Telecom signed a lucrative global agreement with China Unicom, to provide machine-to-machine (M2M) services to enterprise customers across mainland China and Hong Kong.

– Arthur Cox Listing Services acted as Listing Agent on the first Chinese transaction to list in Ireland, when China Petrochemical Corporation acted as guarantor for Sinopec Group Overseas Development (2013) Limited which listed its Dollar and Euro Senior Notes on the Irish Stock Exchange (ISE).

– Other notable deals for the island included: AB Pneumatics, a Lisburn Northern Ireland-based manufacturer of air springs for vehicle seating, won new business to supply £600,000 (€766,000) a year of equipment to Commercial Vehicle Group (CVG) in Shanghai; Antrim-based Fastank won a deal to supply portable liquid storage systems for environmental clean-up operations at a major chemical plant in Shanghai; while BI Electrical, a specialist in electrical engineering services, has signed a £20 million (€25.5 million) China agreement with Keenshine in Shanghai.

– In December a team of Chinese veterinary inspectors visited Ireland to officially inspected Irish beef slaughtering and processing facilities. Irish beef producers are competing with Canadian and USA beef producers to gain China export approval. For Ireland to be the first EU member to have its beef approved for export to China would be major coup.

– The year ended on a high note with President Higgins of Ireland’s historic state visit to Beijing, Shanghai and Hangzhou, during which it was announced that President Xi Jinping of China had accepted an invitation to visit Ireland. (For additional insight into President Higgins of Ireland’s State Visit to China click the following url:  http://wp.me/p15Yzr-182)

President Xi Jinping of China welcomes President Higgins of Ireland to China

President Xi Jinping of China welcomed President Higgins of Ireland to China

Part 2: 2015 – The year that will be?

The one certainty in the relationship is that in the run-up to President Xi Jinping‘s return trip to Ireland, which is more likely to happen in 2016 (although with the next Irish general election expected to take place no later than 3 April 2016, the Irish Government will be pushing for President Xi Jinping to make undertake his State Visit to Ireland during the latter part of 2015) the political, economic and cultural relationship can only grow stronger. The one vulnerability is the transient Chinese economy, which although experiencing an extended period of volatility is unlikely to go off the rails.

Open Sesame

So soon after the close of such a vibrant year in Ireland – China relations, any talk of China’s massive appetite for Ireland’s baby formula, beef, pork suddenly metamorphosing into becoming a major cash cow at this point, is greatly overstated.

Every country trading with China wants a piece of the action, and in the food and drink sector competition is set to grow in intensity. For instance, Chile recently started exporting live cattle to China, while Australia recently concluded a free trade agreement with China that will give its exporters preferential pricing similar to that already enjoyed by New Zealand exporters.

It is highly probable that 2015 will see Irish beef producers benefit from the strengthened political bond by having their produce approved for export to China. Moreover, the formal announcement of a direct air-link and a significant rise in the numbers of tourists visiting Ireland are also highly likely.

Export opportunities

Relative to the overall size of the China market, for Irish businesses in search of China market opportunities, we would also beat the drum for:

  • Agricultural Technology;
  • Cleantech;
  • Construction Products and Technology;
  • Engineering;
  • Food Technology and Ingredients;
  • Healthcare and Hygiene Solutions;
  • Industrial Components (OEM suppliers), Life Sciences, Medical Devices (class I and II);

While in the B2C space, where domestic consumption is creating opportunities for foreign brands to sell products in China, the sectors we would make a pitch for include:

  • Foods and functional foods sold through grocery retail, health stores and on-line.
  • OTC and other products, e.g. baby products, consumer medical devices and aids, cosmetics, etc. that are sold through pharmacies, parapharmacies, health stores and on-line;
Foreign Direct Investment (FDI)

In addition, we are of the opinion that the time is ripe for a significant FDI from China, and in this regard two words come to mind: ‘Open Sesame’

Driven out of necessity, Hangzhou-based E-commerce behemoth Alibaba Group – arguably the world’s largest online and mobile company – is actively plotting its expansion to become a truly global company. Investments in Europe and the USA beckon. In this regard, we would be inclined to think the December visit by President Higgins and Minister of Finance Michael Noonan to Alibaba‘s headquarters in Hangzhou would have been quite effective in putting the squeeze on Jack Ma, Founder and Chairman, Alibaba Group, in considering Ireland as a possible location for further European expansion, bearing in mind that Alibaba already has an office in London’s Canary Wharf. (For additional insight into President Higgins’s visit to Hangzhou click the following url: http://wp.me/p15Yzr-18c)

President Higgins of Ireland meets Jack Ma, Founder and Chairman of Alibaba Group, in Hangzhou

President Higgins of Ireland met with Mr. Jack Ma, Founder and Chairman of Alibaba Group, in Hangzhou

Strategic sourcing

Given the extensive publicity that usually accompanies a China market breakthrough for an Irish exporter, it is easy to overlook the fact that the Ireland – China trading relationship is two-way.

Long known for manufacturing cheap products, over the past few years rising labour and real estate costs, have forced Chinese manufacturers to move up the value stream. Concurrently, an unrelenting series of tainted product scandals have generated a multitude of exacting government decreed benchmark quality standards. The ensuing marked improvement in product and food safety standards represents an economic transformation that is already rekindling China’s export competitiveness. By its very nature, we foresee Irish businesses increasingly focusing on China for strategic sourcing options, which over the course of the year will gradually eat into Ireland’s trade surplus with China.

Accurate Group – China Market Makers

Ireland is a long way away and Chinese people like to see a presence here. The first advice that we give to Irish companies coming to China is that they need to commit to the market. They are not going to come in and make a quick buck.

– Julie Sinnamon, CEO, Enterprise Ireland” Source: Irish Times, 15th December, 2014

The only way to succeed in China is to be aware and prepared – and to be on the ground. With this vital rule of thumb in mind, in 2014 Accurate Group, which is based in Hangzhou and Shanghai, was directly involved in developing China trade worth up to €4 million for Ireland’s food and drink sectors.

– By Niall O’Reilly

Niall O’Reilly is the Managing Director of Accurate Group, China Market Makers, and Director for China, Irish Exporters Association, has been based in Hangzhou since 2007.

Sourcehttp://www.accuratelimited.com/blog.view.php?id=l1UtkHyIg1Y= 

Niall O’Reilly

Managing Director, Accurate Group – Ireland China Market Makers

Website: For more ‘Accurate China Insights’ click  http://www.accuratelimited.com/blog.php

Twitter: @AccurateChina – China: The Ireland Angle

China Office : Accurate Group China, Hangzhou – O: +86 571 8709 1253

Ireland Office: Accurate Group, Dublin – O: +353-1 271-1830

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President Higgins plants the legendary city of Hangzhou on Ireland’s map of China

Why President Michael D. Higgins of Ireland’s State Visit includes the dynamic metropolis of Hangzhou.

The most beautiful city in China

In the 13th century Marco Polo is said to have described Hangzhou, which is situated in east China along the Qiantang River, as “the city of heaven, the most magnificent in the world”.

While many of the world’s metropolises can also be portrayed as magnificent, Hangzhou, the largest city in Zhejiang province, and one of China’s seven ancient capitals, is beyond doubt one of China’s most eye-catching and affluent cities.

With a GDP per capita of over €12,200 and a population of 8.8 million people, Hangzhou is home to two UNESCO World Heritage Sites:

One of the most picturesque wonders of China, the West Lake Cultural Landscape of Hangzhou, comprising the tranquil West Lake and the hills surrounding its three sides, has inspired famous poets, scholars and artists since the 9th century. It comprises numerous temples, pagodas, pavilions, gardens and ornamental trees, as well as causeways and artificial islands.

Grand canal, West Lake Cultural Square, Hangzhou

Grand Canal, West Lake Cultural Square, Hangzhou

Equally breath-taking is the Grand Canal, which was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in June this year. Dating back to the 6th century and stretching 1,776 kilometres (1,104 miles) from the southern terminus of Hangzhou north to Beijing, the Grand Canal is the oldest and longest man-made waterway in the world, at least 10 times the length of the Suez Canal and 23 times that of the Panama Canal.

Another symbol of the city is the sight of one of China’s most spectacular natural phenomena, the roaring Qiantang River tidal bore, or Silver Dragon, the world’s largest tidal bore that rising to a height of as much 12 metres (40 feet) rolls upstream every September.

That Hangzhou is also the capital of China’s national drink, tea – its celebrated West Lake LongJing, or “Dragon Well”, green tea, consistently ranking first among China Top 10 leading teas – and home to one of the largest and wealthiest Buddhist temples in China, the stunning Lingyin Temple with a history stretching back 1,600 years, it is no wonder that Hangzhou’s tourism industry caters for upwards of 93.16 million visitors a year.

Beauty and business go hand in hand

On Friday 12th December, on his first state visit to China as a guest of President Xi Jinping, President Michael D. Higgins of Ireland will take a 45 minutes journey on the Shanghai–Hangzhou High-Speed Railway aboard the ‘Harmony’ train. Not only symbolic of China’s rapid technological advancement – the 202 kilometres (126 miles) long line, designed for commercial train service at 350 km/h (217 mph) was built in 20 months – the trip is an explicit induction to the vibrant city of Hangzhou with its strong culture of innovation.

The city has strong economic growth of 8%, a business-friendly and farsighted government, an abundance of research and development facilities, and proximity to business professionals throughout the Yangtze River Delta, all of which have contributed to Hangzhou’s recognition as both the capital of China’s online industry, and a celebrated hub of entrepreneurship.

A study published last August by Spear’s (in association with leading wealth consultancy company WealthInsight source: http://www.spearswms.com/news/new-data-reveals-where-the-worlds-billionaires-are-born-4345872#.VA0nMEi5_Mlhttp:// ) ranks Hangzhou 15th of the top 25 global cities “where billionaires are born”, the city being home to six billionaires, all of whom are self-made.

West Lake Sunset, Hangzhou

West Lake Sunset, Hangzhou

Nobody typifies the new breed of Chinese entrepreneurship in a global era more than former Hangzhou-born school teacher Jack Ma, now China’s wealthiest man, who as the Founder and Executive Chairman of Hangzhou-based E-commerce behemoth Alibaba Group – arguably the world’s largest online and mobile company – leads a group of companies that reached a market value of €188 billion in September 2014. More than at any other of his meetings with China’s political elite, it is likely that at his meeting with Mr. Ma, President Higgins, who will be accompanied by Ireland’s Minister for Finance Michael Noonan, will come to truly appreciate the intrepid, confident, innovative consumerist spirit that makes China an essential market for Irish goods and services exports.

China’s ‘Silicon Valley’, Hangzhou is the stronghold from where Mr. Ma and his colleagues direct the online revolution that is turning China’s retail industry on its head: On the 11th November 2014 Alibaba’s Tmall business-to-consumer platform, an increasingly important platform for foreign retailers to penetrate China, ‘Singles Day’ online retail event achieved sales of around €7.6 billion. They are also plotting Alibaba’s expansion to become a truly global company. Investments in Europe and the USA beckon.

Twenty-seven years ago, when Zong Qinghou, a native of Zhejiang province, was 42, he made his living selling soft drinks and ice cream to schoolchildren in Hangzhou. Today, according to Forbes, Mr. Zong, as Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Hangzhou Wahaha, China’s leading beverage company that employs over 60,000 people and has over 64 manufacturing facilities, or  “China’s drinks king”, is reputed to have a personal fortune of €9 billion making him the sixth wealthiest person in China.

Consistently topping the World Bank’s list of Chinese cities with the best investment climate, and rated by Forbes as one of the top 10 cities on the mainland for doing business, at the end of 2013 there were more than 12,000 foreign direct investment companies operating in Hangzhou while foreign investment surpassed €4.2 billion. Moreover, the city’s total foreign trade volume was almost €50 billion.

80,000 free bicycles, 2,000 electric public buses and 500 electric taxis

Maintaining Hangzhou’s advantage as a great place to do business in constantly requires improving the living environment and quality of life of its residents and visitors, an obligation that does not come without its challenges.

No challenge is more taxing then tackling the ecological problems associated with administering China’s 10th most populated city, and one of the most visited tourist cities in the world, not to mention the country’s deteriorating air quality and ecological environment.

For instance, with well over two million private cars on its roads, making it the second worst traffic congested of any major city in China, Hangzhou’s Leadership has taken a serious attitude on combating the issues by adopting zero-emissions public transportation, namely electric buses and taxis. Last June, in one of the world’s largest all-electric fleets ever ordered, Hangzhou purchased 2,000 long-range, battery-electric transit buses and 1,000 long-range, pure-electric taxi cars from BYD, the Chinese automaker backed by Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc., whose buses have already hit the streets of London and California.

Anybody who believes that bike-sharing is a European transportation phenomenon should set foot in Hangzhou. Recently rated by USA Today as the world’s best public bicycle sharing system, comprising 80,000 free bicycles leased up to 400,000 times a day, Hangzhou Public Bicycle, which was only launched in 2008, is also likely the most extensively utilised bike-sharing scheme, anywhere.

Another ground-breaking project that is a testimony to the vibrancy of Hangzhou’s advancement is its subway system which opened in 2012, following five years of construction. By 2020, the city plans to five subway lines operating at a total length of 200 kilometres (124 miles).

Hangzhou, Silk Capital of China

Hangzhou, Silk Capital of China

Ireland and Hangzhou

For Irish exporters struggling to seize upon the lucrative sales opportunities to be had in what is now arguably the world’s largest economy, Hangzhou provides an ideal foretaste of the extraordinary growth in the purchasing power of China’s increasingly affluent middle classes.

The average price of a new home in Hangzhou is about €2,700 per square metre; with daily flights operated by KLM from Hangzhou to Amsterdam, Paris and London are high on the list of preferred destinations for Hangzhou’s high spending tourists; while Rolls Royce, Maserati, Aston Martin, and Gucci showrooms all report brisk business, doubtless boosted by the scores of millionaires recently created by Alibaba’s September IPO.

As individual prosperity rises, people are becoming increasingly conscious about their health and quality of life. For instance, local demand for imported high-quality food and beverages such as dairy and nutritional food products present significant opportunities for Irish suppliers, as do local government –backed projects actively encouraging fuel efficiency, cleaner water, and better sanitation. There are also considerable opportunities in Hangzhou for services-related exports in the tourism and education sectors. With regard to the latter, 36 tertiary colleges and universities with close to 450,000 students are located in Hangzhou, including China’s second best university, Zhejiang University, one of China’s leading medical schools, Zhejiang Medical University, and the renowned China Academy of Arts, the most influential fine arts academy in China.

The challenges for any Irish exporter entering what is still a relatively immature market are apparent. China’s rapid growth since its 1978 opening to the world has not meant greater transparency. Given that the available market information is generally unreliable or misleading, making sound business decisions can be difficult, while a simple misunderstanding of local business practices can harm efforts to develop solid business relationships. As such there is an inherent need for proximity to the customer base for Irish exporters.

The Irish Exporters Association and Accurate Group, an Ireland China market making consultancy have been on the ground in Hangzhou for close to seven years building strong relationships with key business and Hangzhou government decision-makers. Consequently, Hangzhou’s Leadership, including its Party Secretary and Mayor, has visited Ireland on a regular basis.

President Michael D Higgins of Ireland’s State Visit to this fabled city not only is a clear recognition of Hangzhou’s long and illustrious history, it is also a statement acknowledging the potential for extending the hand of trade and friendship between Ireland and Hangzhou, a new gateway for Irish business into China.

For more information about President Higgins of Ireland’s State Visit to China click on the following YouTube video-clip:

– By Niall O’Reilly

Source: http://accuratelimited.com/blog.view.php?id=bpe1QYxRz6M=

Niall O’Reilly, Managing Director of Accurate Group, China Market Makers, and Director for China, Irish Exporters Association, has been based in Hangzhou since 2007.

Niall O’Reilly

Managing Director, Accurate Group – Ireland China Market Makers

Website: For more ‘Accurate China Insights’ click  http://www.accuratelimited.com/blog.php

Twitter: @AccurateChina – China: The Ireland Angle

China Office : Accurate Group China, Hangzhou – O: +86 571 8709 1253

Ireland Office: Accurate Group, Dublin – O: +353-1 271-1830

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State Visit to the People’s Republic of China – President Michael D. Higgins of Ireland

The State Visit, the highest form of engagement, in diplomatic protocol, that one country can have with another, will be the 3rd overseas State Visit since the President of Ireland took office and is recognition of the warm relationship Ireland enjoys with the People’s Republic of China encompassing all aspects of the exchanges between Ireland and China in culture, education, trade and investment.

The President’s programme in China, which officially commences in Beijing on Sunday 7th December, will include State ceremonies, cultural, educational and business events, such as an Irish Cultural Performance in Beijing‘s Forbidden City Concert Hall, and Enterprise Ireland / IDA Ireland business and Embassy of Ireland Irish community receptions. A state dinner in his honour, hosted by the President Xi Jinping and Madame Ping will be held on Tuesday 19th December. On Thursday, 11th December, the Consul General of Ireland in Shanghai will host a reception for the Irish community, while on Friday 12th the President will visit the third city involved in the State Visit, Hangzhou. In Hangzhou, President Higgins will visit Alibaba, and have a meeting with Mr. Jack Ma its founder and Executive Chairman. Staying overnight in Hangzhou – perhaps at the West Lake State Guest House where Nixon and Mao signed the historic “3 Joint Communiques” in 1972– on Saturday he will visit the Lingyin Temple in Hangzhou, which dates back to 328AD, take a Bronze Dragon Boat trip on Hangzhou’s spectacular West Lake, followed by a visit to a Longjing Tea Plantation before returning to Shanghai by bullet train. President Higgins will return to Ireland on Monday, 15th of December.

The importance of high-level diplomatic visits between the Ireland and China, which are helping to widen and deepen bilateral relations, cannot be overstated, and in our opinion a substantial trade spin-off can be expected to follow this major State Visit. Real potential exists for further enhancing the relationship between Ireland and China in Ireland’s niche industry sectors such as energy and green technologies, food and agriculture, financial services and aviation leasing, pharmaceuticals, medical devices, educational services, and tourism.

During his momentous visit to China President Higgins can be expected to emphasise the importance of trade links, and, more importantly from a Chinese perspective, growing mutual trust, while encouraging even greater economic co-operation between China and Ireland.

State Visit to China President of Ireland Michael D Higgins to meet President of China Xi Jinping

While there is considerable optimism in Ireland’s agri-food sector about Ireland having the potential to resolve problems of food security in China, New Zealand’s and, most recently, Australia’s free trade agreements with China serve to highlight the daunting task Ireland dairy and meat producers face gaining traction in such an intensely competitive market. As Mark Twain observed “To get the right word in the right place is a rare achievement”. However, one point President Higgins is very good at is talking up Ireland and he will have separate official meetings at the Great Hall of the People with President Xi Jinping, Prime Minister, Mr Li Keqiang and the Chairman of the National People’s Congress, Mr Zhang Dejiang, the three most powerful people in China.

Why is China so interested in Ireland?

As noted in an earlier Accurate China Insight http://www.accuratelimited.com/blog.view.php?id=2Mic2J2sUyQ=

“both countries enjoy an excellent political, business and cultural relationship, much to the envy of Ireland’s European partners”.

Firstly, China’s political leaders are clearly impressed by Ireland’s ongoing economic renewal brought about by the country’s strict adherence to fulfilling its commitments as an international Monetary Fund (IMF) country programme country, as recognized by the IMF, the European Central Bank (ECB), and the European Commission. From an export dependency perspective, China has a vested interest in the European Union’s rapid return to growth and in this context Ireland is a shining beacon of light.

Secondly, such positive awareness dovetails with the ‘Irish Model’ that has proved so successful in the development of China’s own special economic zones areas. In Chinese political circles, whether we realise it or not, Ireland has made an important contribution to China’s economic development. In 1980, a visit by former Chinese President Jiang Zemin, then Senior Vice Minister of State Imports and Exports Administration, to the ‘Shannon Free Zone’ (the world’s first free trade zone) paved the way for Chinese companies to import goods into a special economic zone, manufacture or reconfigure the goods, and then export them without intervention of the customs authorities. The resulting export-led growth has delivered an economy that has experienced the fastest expansion in GDP per capita of any major economy in human history. In recent times after years of economic expansion China’s economic growth rate has being losing speed, in part due to a decline in demand for its exports from key markets. To stall the slowdown new economic prototypes are being assessed such as the fledgling Shanghai Free-Trade Zone that bears characteristics that can be traced back to the ‘Shannon-Free Zone’. The February 2012 visit to the Shannon Development Zone by President Xi Jinping, then Vice President of China, was no mere happenstance.

Thirdly, Ireland currently enjoys a unique position in Europe between two of China’s traditional rivals, the USA and the UK, which for China represents a “soft power” relationship it is determined to make the most of over the long-term.

Fourthly, in addition that Ireland is the only English speaking country in the Euro zone enjoying tariff and border free trade across the European Union makes for a useful entry point into the European market of 500 millions. However, from this perspective Ireland has yet to notch up any significant Chinese investments, a point that President Higgins will no doubt be highlighting during his meetings with China’s political elites.

During the second week of December Ireland will take centre stage in China like never before.

Source: http://www.accuratelimited.com/blog.view.php?id=uInfgiAwMQU=

Niall O’Reilly

Managing Director, Accurate Group – Ireland China Market Makers

Website: For more ‘Accurate China Insights’ click  http://www.accuratelimited.com/blog.php

Twitter: @AccurateChina – China: The Ireland Angle

China Office : Accurate Group China, Hangzhou – O: +86 571 8709 1253

Ireland Office: Accurate Group, Dublin – O: +353-1 271-1830

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Cringe-worthy awkward moments (gaffes) when Irish politicians and media expose China ignorance

1. Language skills

Leo Varadkar - ChinaActually, Ireland in Chinese has three syllables… Ai Er Lan… Just like home indeed Mr. Minister for Tourism and Transport!!

2. Geography

Awkward Moments

Awkward moment here for Irish Independent writer Donal Lynch…. The photo is of Taipei’s 101 Tower in Taiwan, not mainland China… so much for thorough desk research, checking sources and all that.

3. Exaggeration

Ireland's Food and Drink Agency, Bord Bia, promotes Tanaiste (Deputy Prime Minister) Eamon Gilmore to Prime Minister (总理) in China food promotion

Ireland’s Food and Drink Agency, Bord Bia, promotes Tanaiste (Deputy Prime Minister) Eamon Gilmore to Prime Minister (总理) in  St. Patrick’s Day China food promotion

4. Impressions

You Irish velly gud at software

– The remarkable comment in 2011 by leader of Micheál Martin, leader of Fianna Fail, Ireland’s catch all centrist populist party.

5. Pretending

Chinese Premier Zhu Rongji’s visit to Ireland in September 2001:

“I really wish the prime minister Ahern Bertie would stop saying ‘tanks tanks tanks’. He’s overdoing this Tiananmen protest stuff.”

Source: Torture of a Chinese PM http://www.independent.ie/opinion/analysis/torture-of-a-chinese-pm-26250637.html

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From Ireland, the Land of the Horse, Happy Year of the Horse!

从爱尔兰,被称为“马的土地”… 马年大吉!恭祝健康、幸运,新年快乐!

… which essentially means from the island of Ireland, Land of the Horse, where some of the finest horse breeds in the world are produced, I wish everyone good health, good luck and much happiness throughout the Year of the Horse!

Happy Year of the (Irish) Horse!!

Happy Year of the (Irish) Horse!!

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Accurate China Insight: CIC’s ‘China Ireland Technology Growth Capital Fund’ play underlines Ireland’s strategic value

Two major sovereign wealth funds the National Pensions Reserve Fund (NPRF) and the China Investment Corporation (CIC) have joined forces to invest US$$50 million each in the recently created China Ireland Technology Growth Capital Fund [For more information on this announcement read http://www.irishtimes.com/business/sectors/financial-services/pensions-reserve-fund-to-unveil-investment-of-70m-by-chinese-group-1.1658163].

This is a huge vote of confidence in Ireland’s future economic vitality. Yet, what’s even more significant is the way this has played out since 2011.

China‘s state media made great play out of the leaders of Greece, Portugal, Spain and Italy going ‘cap in hand’ to Beijing in search of China Investment Corporation sovereign funds to mitigate their economic woes.

Accurate China Insight - CIC- China Ireland Technology Growth Capital Fund - play underlines Irelands strategic valueNot so when it comes to Ireland. State media coverage of Ireland has always been characterised by the highlighting of particular qualities or attributes which the Chinese Government views as the basis for the close relationship between Ireland and China, the importance of which is highlighted by the growing number of senior Chinese leaders/officials visiting our shores on a regular basis.

Behind the subtly of carefully crafted official speeches and commentaries regarding Ireland there has clearly been a sense of purpose in China’s strategic approach. For example, when senior Chinese officials say “China attaches great importance to its relationship with Ireland” what they mean is ‘English speaking’, ‘between Europe/USA’, ‘same time zone as UK’, ‘potentially resource rich (food, energy)’, ‘friendly’. In other words Ireland is clearly of strategic value to China.

In a new world order potentially led by China our Mediterranean friends don’t offer such strategic attributes.

Following the signing of joint government sponsored NTMA / CIC MOU back in early 2012, an initiative involving CIC was always going to bear fruition. The questions to be answered were when/where?

Given that CIC only makes strategic investments which in China’s vested interests, the statement that Irish and Chinese companies in “core technology sectors such as internet, software, semiconductors, and clean technology will be targeted by the fund’s managers, as well as a number of other technology areas where the Fund’s strategy is uniquely positioned. These include agriculture, food, medical, and financial services” clearly offers the chance of a “win-win” solution for all.

Accurate China Insight-  China Investment Corporation CIC-China Ireland Technology Growth Capital Fund play underlines Irelands strategic value

Now that there is investment money on the table: China is now set to become a major market for Irish companies in terms of joint collaboration and market access; while Ireland’s technological prowess and investment climate, backed by CIC’s vote of confidence, place us at the top table in terms of attracting Chinese outbound investment into Europe.

Coming hot on the heels of the announcement of the established of a new Irish-domiciled exchange-traded fund (ETF) offering European investors direct access to China’s blue-chip stocks for the first time, the approaching Year of the Horse looks set to be a thrilling year in Ireland China relations.

Niall O’Reilly

Managing Director, Accurate Group Ireland China Market Makers (Route to Market, Export, Import, Partner Due Diligence)

Website: http://www.accuratelimited.com

Twitter: @AccurateChina

China Office : Accurate Group China, Hangzhou – O: +86 571 8709 1253

Ireland Office: Accurate Ireland, Dublin – O: +353-1271-1830

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New Year’s Eve: Ireland’s last sunset of 2013

The last sunset of 2013 in Ireland - Dun Laoghaire

“Shedding its final gold of the old year..” The last sunset of 2013 in Ireland – Dun Laoghaire

Shedding its final gold of the old year

Amid fading crepuscular glimpses

The setting sun sinks into obscurity uncharted.

In the hushed stillness below the starlight the closing stages slowly but surely tick down to the peals of Midnight.

A fresh breeze in anticipation of sunrise at what time the first bird impatiently sings the dreams of a new dawn.

Harmony.

Happy New Year!!

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How important will China and knowledge of China be in Ireland’s future?

Encouraged by captains of Irish industry, who should know better, Opposition politicians with an agenda, and armchair critics within the tabloid and online media, a degree of pessimism appears to be growing among Ireland‘s small to medium (SME) sized business sector regarding the ‘risk versus reward’ futility of getting involved in China business. More mature markets in EU and the USA are being represented as offering more scope to grow for Irish SMEs with the right value proposition.

Irish businesses no matter what their size cannot afford to be pessimistic about China and here is why.

“…China’s transformation is one of the defining facts of our lifetime. Last year China became the world’s largest trading nation. Next year China is set to become the world’s largest importer of goods and later this century it will become the world’s biggest economy.

We should be clear that there is a genuine choice for every country over how to respond to this growing openness and success. They can choose to see China’s rise as a threat or an opportunity. They can protect their markets from China or open their markets to China. They can try and shut China out – or welcome China as a partner at the top table of global affairs..”

Source: http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/dec/02/david-cameron-my-visit-to-china

The British Prime Minister Mr. David Cameron, on the eve of his second official visit, in an article published this week in Caixin (pronounced ‘sigh sheen‘), China’s financial news heavyweight, couldn’t have been more explicit about China’s growing importance.

Accurate China Insight - How important will China and knowledge of China be in Irelands future

Most China watchers will agree that – largest, longest, fastest, biggest, greatest, tallest superlatives aside- China is still in the very early stages of its re-emergence: Get in on the ground floor now and potentially be in the happy position of earning revenue hand over fist.

Sure China is no cake walk. At the beginning, building a China market presence from scratch involves hassles, stumbles, issues, errors, problems, stresses and utter confusion.  Yet, isn’t that what getting in at the beginning of any start-up business or market looks like? The only way to WIN is through hard work, support, communication, committment, patience, and understanding that there will be many instances of having to deal with a lot of confusion. Similar to a start-up company, these are the learning steps that must be taken to break new ground and grow a viable market presence in China.  

In a start-up there also comes a point when the challenges start to be overcome and things begin to gel together. And so to in insatiable China where the surmounting of challenges and barriers or difficulties will open the way to doing fantastic things and improving on a daily basis faster than would have happened in more traditional, mature, markets. 

With certain senior business executives and media in Ireland advocating a niche market approach for SMEs with respect to China [“China is a … slow burn” (Mr. Sean O’Driscoll, CEO Glen Dimplex); “More fortunes have been lost than made by getting in too early,” (Liam O’Mahony, Chairman, IDA Ireland) “Putting Mandarin on the school curriculum is a typical proposal from armchair ‘experts’ who have no experience of the challenges of selling in China – – 1.3bn consumers and all we need is a very tiny slice of the pie!” (Michael Hennigan, Editor of Finfacts.ie)] the crux of this Accurate China Insight is to draw attention to the fact that almost all of Accurate Group’s Irish clients, no matter what size, doing business in China or with China succeed at it, while the vast majority of European and American companies in China are flourishing.

Moreover, we do not share the view that China is a particularly risky market for foreign companies. Like any foreign market with a unique language, business culture, and legal system something can go wrong. However, despite the challenges China remains, will continue to remain a very profitable place to do business, which is really what matters most for Irish businesses.

Returning to David Cameron:

China is at a defining moment. It has just announced bold reforms that show real ambition to free its markets and open them up to foreign participation…

As Chinese cities expand dramatically and Chinese people become more prosperous, Britain has the world-class goods and services they need…

Building on the recent launch of EU-China negotiations on investment, and on China’s continued commitment to economic reform, I now want to set a new long-term goal of an ambitious and comprehensive EU-China Free Trade Agreement. And as I have on the EU-US deal, so I will put my full political weight behind such a deal that could be worth tens of billions of dollars every year…

We should recognise that China’s economic transformation is happening at 100 times the scale and 10 times the speed of Britain’s own urbanisation two centuries ago. In the last 30 years, China has made unprecedented social and economic achievements. The recent meeting of China’s leaders – the Third Plenum – has now set a clear goal: comprehensive reform, including issues such as governance and the judicial protection of human rights, and recognising that all types of reform are inextricably linked. The promise is of an economy with a more predictable legal environment and with stricter enforcement of protection for intellectual property rights…

The fact is that businesses thrive in a stable, secure and corruption-free environment that limits the risk of shock, provides certainty of dispute resolution and offers protection of capital and intellectual assets. These conditions are good for growth in China…

Source: http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/dec/02/david-cameron-my-visit-to-china

And therein lies the rub for all Irish businesses. For our closest neighbour China is now at the core of its international trade relations. With the Chinese Yuan surpassing the Euro to become the second-most used currency in global trade (Source: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-12-03/yuan-passes-euro-to-be-second-most-used-trade-finance-currency.html, China, the number one retail growth opportunity in the world (Source: http://yum.com/annualreport/), is where it is happening NOW. Moreover,  the best has yet to come! 

Ireland’s SME’s should be able to determine a new China business model that suits their situation. Top management and business owners who are destructively determined to succeed by increasing efforts to ‘do more of the same better’ in their traditional markets and ignore the potential of China are going to lose out in the medium and long term.

Irish businesses across the board need to intensify efforts to tap the China market otherwise they will be left behind.

Accurate China Insight - How important will China and knowledge of China be in Irelands future 2

Source: Accurate China Insight http://accuratelimited.com/blog.view.php?id=SreDdexWHkE=

Niall O’Reilly

Managing Director, Accurate Group Ireland China Market Makers (Route to Market, Export, Import, Partner Due Diligence)

Website: http://www.accuratelimited.com

Twitter: @AccurateChina

China Office : Accurate Group China, Hangzhou – O: +86 571 8709 1253

Ireland Office: Accurate Ireland, Dublin – O: +353-1271-1830

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December 3, 2013 · 10:28 am

Business as usual is not an option: Sustainable development is a critical factor in Ireland’s agenda for national recovery

Discussion paper presented by Niall O’Reilly at 6th International ‘Life & Development Forum’ – “We Make Life Better – Hangzhou, White Horse Lake Jianguo Hotel , November 8-9, 2013.

                                                                                                       *****
 

Well-being

Well-being

Sustainable development is a continuous, guided process of economic, environmental and social change aimed at promoting the well-being of citizens now and in the future. To realise this requires creating a sustainable and resource efficient economy founded on a fair and just society, which respects the ecological limits and carrying capacity of the natural environment (Source: Wikipedia)

In 2013, the economic situation in Ireland is dramatically different to the earlier part of the last decade, when Ireland was known as The Celtic Tiger. Measured against the standard indicators of GDP, and GNP – trends for economic development, new housing output, tax revenues, and employment levels have dropped sharply.

We have also seen rising unemployment, a banking crisis and a collapse in the property market after a sustained, if unsustainable, boom in the property market.  A number of factors drove these unsustainable trends, including: rapid growth in employment, large scale inward migration (annual immigration rose sharply from 52,600 persons in 2000 to peak at 109,500 in 2007) (2), rapid natural population growth (17% increase between 1996 and 2006), fiscal incentives for the construction sector, rising car ownership and weakness in the strategic approach to spatial planning.

At a time of rapidly rising prosperity and development, the existing structures and controls were not strong enough to withstand the pressures that unavoidably arose.

This legacy leaves Ireland facing huge challenges in the period ahead, challenges that are all the more serious when set against the backdrop of a global economic downturn.

The sustainability pressures on the economy continue to be high and while some progress has been made, there is still a distance to travel before Ireland can fully remove itself from what is the most serious fiscal and economic crisis in the history of the Republic of Ireland.

*****

In meeting the challenge, the Irish Government is implementing a radical Framework for Sustainable Development for Ireland – a national recovery agenda, which seeks to integrate sustainable development principles into policy making across all sectors, for the purpose of stimulating:

  • the transformation of public services
  • economic growth based on knowledge and innovation
  • an inclusive, high employment society
  • a greener low carbon economy
  • and a good quality natural and built-environment so that Ireland can once again prosper on a competitive global stage.

Lessons must be learnt from Ireland’s recent experience and Ireland will have to ensure structures and systems are put in place that are strong enough to survive periods of pressure which might threaten to weaken sustainable growth and fiscal stability.

It is widely accepted that economic growth, social unity and environmental protection are equally important targets for meeting the prime objective of delivering well-being in a diverse multi-cultured society that promotes participation, a society in which everyone takes responsibility for the environment.

While the establishment of a more sustainable pattern of development for Ireland is one of the key challenges of government and ultimately for society, there is also a clear consensus that a return to ‘business as usual’ is not an option.

*****

At a global level there is a growing consensus that the world’s systems of production and consumption cannot be sustained without posing a huge threat to the environment and to human health. Water scarcity, air and water pollution, climate change, resource depletion and irreversible biodiversity loss are problems that have to be tackled as a matter of priority.

Consensus is now focusing around the need to put economies on a more sustainable, green growth path on the basis that the cost of sustaining biodiversity and ecosystem services is lower than the cost of allowing biodiversity and ecosystem services to decline.

For Ireland ‘green growth’ and the ‘green economy’ are now fundamental aspects of Government policy as the country shifts away from the ‘brown economy’ on the road to becoming a low-carbon, competitive, resource efficient and climate resilient country, policy which will ultimately improve its citizens’ well-being and social equity, while significantly reducing environmental risks and ecological scarcities.

Economic, environmental and social progress are mutually related.

Business as usual is not an option - Sustainable development is a critical factor in Ireland’s agenda for national recovery

Blue sky living

Ireland’s Framework for Sustainable Development

This Framework contains measures to help meet the overall goal of achieving continuous improvement of quality of life both for current and for future generations.

The following set of 7 principles for sustainable development are the central aspects of this Framework for Sustainable Development for Ireland:

  1. In relation to “economy”, the principle seeks “to promote an innovative, competitive and low carbon economy with the aim of achieving smart, sustainable and inclusive growth” and to reduce pressure on natural resources
  2. In relation to “satisfaction of human needs by the efficient use of resourcesthe key objectives are that:

(a) “Prices should reflect the real costs to society of production and consumption activities and polluters should pay for the damage they cause to human health and the environment

(b) “The needs of current generations should be addressed without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs”

(c) “Resources should be used within the capacity for regeneration

3. In relation to “respect for ecological integrity and biodiversity” the Framework seeks to ensure that “the abundance of wildlife and extent of habitats should be maintained, improved and restored where necessary, through sustainable management

4. In relation to social equity the main principle is that “social inclusion should be promoted to ensure an improved quality of life for all”

5. In relation to “respect for cultural heritage and diversity” the Framework will ensure that “the quality of landscapes, the heritage of the man-made environment and historic and cultural resources should be maintained and improved.

6. In relation to “Equity between countries and regions” Ireland will:

(a) “promote fundamental rights, by combating all forms of discrimination and contributing to the reduction of poverty”

(b) “promote consistency between local, regional, national, European Union (EU) and global actions in order to increase their contribution to sustainable development”

7. The 7th and final theme of Ireland’s Framework for Sustainable Development relates to good “decision-making”. In this regard, the framework will aim to:

(a) Guarantee citizens’ rights of access to information and public participation procedures.

(b) Ensure citizens’ access to review mechanisms.

(c) Develop adequate consultation with all interested parties, including citizens, businesses and social partners (such as trade unions), and develop participatory channels for all such interested parties.

Of course there are challenges.

Ireland’s Sustainable Development Framework catagorises 12 the key challenges under the following themes:

  1. Sustainability of public finances and economic resilience.
  2. Sustainable consumption and production.
  3. Conservation and management of natural resources.
  4. Climate change and clean energy.
  5. Sustainable agriculture.
  6. Sustainable transport.
  7. Social inclusion, sustainable communities and spatial planning.
  8. Public health.
  9. Education, communication and behaviour change.
  10. Innovation, research and development
  11. Skills and training
  12. The 12th challenge is how to address global poverty and sustainable development.

I will now briefly explain Government-led initiatives regarding two of these themes: sustainable transport and public health

Smarter Travel – A Sustainable Transport Future

Transport, which is a key element of a sustainable development strategy, should be closely aligned to land use planning and the need to create more sustainable communities.

Sustainable transport is central to Ireland’s efforts to combat climate change, air pollution and other negative environmental and social impacts.

Transport trends in Ireland from the mid 1990’s onwards are unsustainable. The main problems associated with transport in Ireland are:

  • Rising pollution – greenhouse gases and particular air pollutants which are detrimental to health and the environment such as nitrous oxides (NOx) and volatile organic compounds (VOCs).
  • Increasing congestion on roads that lengthens journey times, adversely impacts on family, leisure time, and community life, contributes to the growing problem of obesity, and adds to pollution and costs at many levels including affecting Ireland’s national competitiveness. In Ireland there is a clear appetite to abandon the car for commuter driver, if only this were practical.
  • Safety also remains a key issue despite the steadily decreasing numbers of road deaths.
  • In addition, a key characteristic that distinguishes energy use in transport in Ireland is the almost total dependence on oil as a fuel and on import dependency, over 99% in both cases.

Without intervention, congestion will get worse, economic competitiveness will suffer, quality of life will deteriorate and carbon emissions from the transport sector will grow.

In order to achieve a sustainable travel and transport system by 2020, Ireland needs to change its unsustainable behaviour and habits as a nation and as individuals.

Sustainable and smarter transport measures currently being implemented by the Government under the Framework for Sustainable Development are set out in four key goals:

Goal 1 – to “reduce overall travel demand and the distance traveled by private car” and encourage smarter travel, including

  • focusing population and employment growth in sustainable compact forms, which reduce the need to travel for employment and services
  • using pricing mechanisms or fiscal measures to encourage behaviour change and discourage people from using the car unnecessarily.

Goal 2 – to “maximise the efficiency of the transport network” by ensuring that alternatives to the car are more widely available mainly through a radically improved public transport service and investment in cycling and walking.

Goal 3 – to reduce reliance on foss1il fuels and emissions by improving the fuel efficiency of motorised transport through

  • improved fleet structure
  • energy efficient driving
  • alternative driving.

Goal 4 – to improve accessibility to transport.

To achieve these goals the Government is pursuing a number of key targets such as:

  • Dramatically improving the placement of spatial and transport planning to stop urban sprawl, and urban-generated one-off housing in non-urban areas
  • Encouraging e-working through better broadband provision
  • 500,000 more people will take alternative means to commute to work (200,000 people will switch to cycling and walking) to the extent that the total share of car commuting will drop from 65% to 45%
  • Alternatives such as walking, cycling and public transport will be supported and provided to the extent that these will rise to 55% of total commuter journeys to work
  • The total kilometres travelled by the car fleet in 2020 will not increase significantly from current levels
  • A reduction will be achieved on the 2005 figure for greenhouse gas emissions from the transport

These key targets are ambitious. However, they are necessary to improve the quality of life of Ireland’s citizens, to secure future energy supply, and to ensure that the transport sector substantially reduces greenhouse gas emissions, in line with the need for all developed nations to do so. These targets represent a complete turnaround in the current trends. They mean that the Irish public must radically alter how they travel, and that Government priorities in the transport sector must move towards more sustainable modes.

Smarter Travel and Sustainable Transport Ideas:

  • Specification of a maximum permitted level of car parking for Government offices and commercial sites, which have suitable public transport facilities and are within walking/ cycling distance to amenities
  • The adoption of flexible working policies. The Government has provided leadership in promoting such flexible policies in the public sector
  • Ensuring that every school and college in Ireland has a school travel plan to encourage students to take alternatives to the car.
  • Government commitment to a culture of walking in Ireland
  • A car-sharing website which will help employers to encourage such initiatives in the workforce.
  • One smart-card to pay for all forms of public transport
  • Conversion of taxi and public bus fleet to alternative fuels. 
Natural resources

Natural resources

A Healthy Ireland

Public health protection is an essential goal for society in delivering well-being and quality of life. Ireland has made significant progress in regard to the health of its population, but some key challenges remain.

The rise in life expectancy in Ireland during the past decade has been unmatched by any other country in Europe with the greatest gains in the older age groups reflecting decreasing mortality rates from major diseases.

In fact, the most important statistic from a health perspective is the number of people over the age of 65 which is projected to increase from over 500,000 now to over 1,300,000 in the next 30 years with the greatest proportional increases occurring in the 85+ age group.

However, Ireland’s ageing population, together with negative trends in obesity (60% of adults are obese), diet, exercise and other risk factors – such as smoking [6,000 deaths a year), and alcohol abuse (related road accidents cost over Euro 600 million a year) means that the level of chronic health conditions will certainly increase.

In addition, there are a range of social determinants of health, for example social exclusion, education, health services, the built environment and lifestyle choices:

People who are less well off or who belong to socially excluded groups tend to fare badly in relation to these social determinants

A healthy environment is also absolutely linked to the health of Ireland’s population which relies for survival on clean air and water and the crops we are able to grow in uncontaminated soil. Public amenities such as forest parks provide opportunities for recreation and add to our understanding of the environment thus supporting healthier lifestyles while contributing to our well-being.

The Irish Government’s Healthy Ireland framework is about taking important steps towards making Ireland a healthier and more prosperous country in which the whole population enjoys the best possible health and well-being.

It is designed to include Government Departments, local authorities and public bodies, businesses and employers, sports and voluntary groups, communities and families.

Initiatives within the Healthy Ireland Framework have four goals:

Goal 1: Increase the proportion of people who are healthy at all stages of life:

This means addressing risk factors and promoting protective factors at every stage of life – from pre-natal, through early childhood, adolescence, adulthood and into old age, to support lifelong health and well-being.

Initiatives in this context include:

  • Increasing the number of adults (by 5%) and children (6%) with a healthy weight by 2019
  • Increasing by 20% the proportion of adults eating the recommended five or more servings of fruit and vegetables per day
  • Reducing smoking among young people by 1% a year
  • Decreasing levels of self-harm across all life stages
  • Increasing by 20% of proportion of the population undertaking regular physical activity

Goal 2: Reduce health inequalities:

Health and well-being are not evenly distributed across Irish society. This goal requires not only interventions to target particular health risks, but also a broad focus on addressing the wider social determinants of health – the circumstances in which people are born, grow, live, work and age – to create economic, social, cultural and physical environments that foster healthy living.

Initiatives in this context include:

  • Increasing the ‘stay at school’ rates of students in second-level schools
  • Reducing the % of the population in consistent poverty from current 6% to 2% or less by 2020.
  • Increasing self-reported happiness and well-being across socio-economic groups.

Goal 3: Protect the public from threats to health and well-being:

The Healthy Ireland Framework is designed to ensure effective strategies and interventions to protect the public from new and emerging threats to health and well-being are implemented. Being prepared to prevent, respond to, and rapidly recover from public health threats through collaborative working is critical for protecting and securing the population’s health.

Initiatives in this context include:

  • Increasing immunization rates for children to 95% uptake
  • Reducing prevalence of food-borne infections in compliance with Ireland and EU legislation
  • Complying with indicators defined in International Health Regulations, World Health Organisation (WHO).

Goal 4: Create an environment where every individual and sector of society can play their  part in achieving a Healthy Ireland:

It is beyond the capability of any one Government Department or organisation to promote society-wide health and well-being. This can only be done through society-wide involvement in and engagement with health and well-being promotion and improvement activities – from individuals making positive lifestyle choices and projects run by community and local groups, to policy and legislative changes at the highest level of government.

Initiatives in this context include:

  • Establishing key indicators measuring the level, range and effectiveness of cross government collaboration and effectiveness of structures.
  • Increasing percentage of people participating in informal, unpaid charitable work.

The current health status of people living in Ireland, lifestyle trends and inequalities in health outcomes are leading Ireland toward a future that is dangerously unhealthy and very likely unaffordable. The work that is underway to build a health service that is accessible and fair will only succeed if Ireland builds an environment that supports people and their families to lead healthier lifestyles.

Evidence and experience from around the world clearly shows that to create positive and sustainable change in health and well-being, it takes the involvement of the whole community, the whole of Government, all of society working in unison.

In conclusion, having endured the worst crisis in the history of the Republic of Ireland, by placing Sustainable Development as a critical component in Ireland’s Agenda for National Recovery the Government is clearly focused on pursuing coherent policies and sustainable actions for the health and well-being of the country’s most valuable asset: Its people.

Given Ireland’s present economic condition investment in the necessary infrastructure elements of the Framework for Sustainable Development will be challenging. However, the real challenge is to change mindsets, so that Ireland’s institutions and individual citizens realise the benefits from altering their behaviour for the common good.

END.

Business as usual is not an option - Sustainable development is a critical factor in Ireland’s agenda for national recovery

Bio-diversity

Niall O’Reilly

Managing Director, Accurate Group Ireland China Market Makers (Route to Market, Export, Import, Partner Due Diligence)

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