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Minister of State Ciarán Cannon, TD - Address to the Asia-Pacific Ireland Business Forum

Fáilte, Sawadee Khrap (pronounced sà.wàt.dee.crap), Welcome.

A chairde, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, it is my distinct pleasure to be here in Bangkok with you this morning and to welcome you all the Asia Pacific Ireland Business Forum.

I wish to first acknowledge and thank Paul Scales and the team at the Irish Thai Chamber of Commerce for organising this year’s event and putting together such an exciting programme. Events like this show the role the regional chambers can play in helping us all to work closer together.

This forum provides an opportunity for the Embassies, State Agencies and Irish businesses to come together, network, share experiences and build long lasting partnerships.

Over 43 Years ago on the 27 June 1975 Ireland and Thailand began Diplomatic Relations and in those years we have seen a deepening of our bilateral relationship particularly in the areas of trade and investment, tourism, and education.

In 2015, to mark 40 years of Diplomatic relations between our two countries, the Irish Government opened our Embassy here in Bangkok.
This signaled a significant shift in the strength and depth of Ireland’s relationship with Thailand and is a very clear indication of our strong desire to enhance every aspect of our relations.
Since then we have seen an even greater focus on these key areas of cooperation. More Irish companies are looking to Thailand to establish operations and work in partnership with Thai enterprise. Thai investors and companies are looking at Ireland to see all the offerings that we have as a country. More Thai students are coming to Ireland to study and avail of our world class education system, an increase of 300% over the past four years and one which we are keen to see grow even further.

In 1963 US President John F. Kennedy quoted George Bernard Shaw, who speaking as an Irishman, summed up an approach to life when he said: "Other peoples, see things and say: 'Why?' ... But I dream things that never were—and I say: 'Why not?"'

This approach to life is evident in the Irish community’s ambition and success around the world. It is also an approach of Irish Businesses who have expanded across the globe seeking new opportunities, new markets, new innovations, and new partnerships.

With a diaspora of 70 million, the Irish people have been innovators and leaders in business and enterprise in almost every country in the world for decades and continue to ask and answer that simple question of why not. Their ambition and determination to succeed is what has made Ireland and Irish Business the successes that they are today. Although we come from a small island on the edge of the Atlantic, Irish businesses have never let that stop them becoming global players and global leaders. Indeed, the thriving success of our national games internationally, best illustrated by the Asian GAA Games taking place here in Bangkok over the week-end with over 1,000 people attending from across the region, is another example of the enterprise and commitment of the Irish diaspora.

Back home, for the past two years Ireland has had the fastest growing economy in the European Union. While our economy continues to experience solid sustainable growth, it would be remiss of me not to mention one of the biggest challenges facing Ireland which is of course Brexit.

Given our close trading, economic and political ties to Britain, Ireland stands to be most impacted by Brexit among EU Member States. That said, we remain confident that our economy is resilient and that appropriate fiscal policies are in place. This will help us to adjust to the economic effects of Brexit.
I cannot say strongly enough that Ireland is fully committed to the EU. Our membership of the Union and the Euro zone remains central to the success of our open, competitive economy and has been the foundation for much of the economic and social progress we have made over the last four decades.
We are an English-speaking country in the EU, with direct access to the EU’s Single Market, and in the Eurozone. We have a well-educated population and we are committed to a business-friendly environment, for businesses large and small.
An important focus of our planning and preparation for Brexit is deepening the Government’s analysis and understanding of the exact consequences of a range of different possible scenarios. This detailed contingency planning is continuing and intensifying, across all Government Departments.
We are now in the critical final phase of negotiations between the EU and the UK on the UK’s exit. We remain focused on our priorities for the negotiations, including protecting the Northern Ireland peace process and minimising the impact on trade and the economy.
Our endgame objective is to achieve a close and positive future relationship between the EU and the UK. This is of benefit to us both, and to our partners in the wider world.
Ireland - IDA
Our committed membership of the EU is of course a key offering to our economic partners around the world. Over 1,300 foreign-headquartered companies have significant operations in Ireland. They are drawn by Ireland’s young, highly-educated, highly-skilled, multi-lingual work force, the strong base of existing FDI companies, the proximity to the European market, a consistent, attractive corporation tax regime of 12.5%, a much improved cost competitiveness and a safe and secure Common Law jurisdiction.

These companies are some of the world’s most recognisable and innovative companies. They include:

· 9 of the top 10 global pharmaceutical companies
· 9 of the top 10 global software companies
· All 10 of the top 10 born-on-the-internet companies
· 13 of the top 15 global medical technology companies
· 15 of the top 25 financial services firms
· 7 of the top 10 industrial automation companies

They choose Ireland for the factors I have mentioned and because we offer barrier-free access to 500 million consumers, an established track record for attracting and retaining global multinational companies and strong incentives for research and development. One third of our population is aged under 25, giving us the youngest population in the EU. We also have a highly educated workforce – 52% of 25-34 year olds have a third level qualification – higher than any other EU country. Our education system ranks in the top ten in the world and we have the highest proportion of science, maths and computing graduates in the OECD. So we are a country with great future potential too.

Increasingly, Ireland is attracting companies from the Asia Pacific region who are using Ireland as a cost-effective base to do business in Europe. Regional giants from Asia Pacific such as, Huawei, Tata, InfoSys, Lenovo, SMBC, Trend Micro, Bank of China and Indorama from Thailand have all established a presence in Ireland.

But Ireland is not only for the multinational giants. As the Silicon Valley of Europe, Ireland is one of the most recognized global tech hubs, where fast-growing, disruptive technology companies can scale and internationalise their business. My Government provides significant support and assistance for companies setting up in Ireland, especially in areas of Research, Development and Innovation.

Irish Companies Abroad – Enterprise Ireland Irish industry and exporters also continue to make their presence felt globally. 2017 was a record year for Enterprise Ireland clients, with international sales of €22.7 billion. This performance shows the strength and capabilities of Irish companies, from start-up entrepreneurs to SMEs and our own home-grown multinationals, competing at a global level.

Ireland’s trading relationship with the Asia Pacific region has grown substantially over the last five years with more than 600 Enterprise Ireland clients exporting over €2bn of innovative goods and services to the Asia Pacific region and we have an ambition to increase this by a further 50% by 2020.

There are nearly 300 exporters to the ASEAN region and the Enterprise Ireland team is structured around key sectors of opportunity including: Aviation & Travel Technologies, Education, Industrial products, Digital Technologies, Healthcare, and Fintech.

These are great examples of sectors where Ireland has significant innovation and expertise, providing high-added value solutions and where the EI team is facilitating introductions between Irish and companies from the Asia Pacific region to deliver on specific opportunities.

Food is an extremely important industry for both our countries, and some of our larger Irish companies not only have a presence in Thailand, but across the Asia-Pacific region. Ireland prides itself on food and food research and technology. With a growing middle class seeking new sources of reliable and safe food, Ireland’s reputation in food safety stands tall.

The theme of today’s forum is ‘Sustainability – Building Long Term Success for Irish Companies in Asia’. I urge you all to take the opportunity today to network with each other, learn from each other and build long lasting partnerships with each other in order that you all can achieve the sustainability and success that you desire.

Thank you very much for your attention and I wish you all a useful and successful attendance at this year’s Asia Pacific Ireland Business Forum.


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