Members of the Oireachtas Committee including Chairman, Brendan Smith TD (fourth from right) with Martin Murray and Samantha Hobbs, Asia Matters. Also pictured (from left) Senator Mark Daly, Senator Ivana Bacik, Deputy Sean Crowe, Deputy Maureen O’ Sullivan and Deputy Noel Grealish.

Ireland can capitalise on concerns in Asia following the UK Brexit decision by promoting the country as a “safe harbour” for investment, the Executive Director of Asia Matters told an Oireachtas Committee today.

Martin Murray, speaking at the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Trade, said there were considerable worries among business and investment leaders in Asia following the twin effects of the Trump Presidency and US protectionism and the Brexit decision in the UK.

Mr Murray said: “The global business climate has become unstable so many executives in Asia are very worried about risk management in global expansion, particularly in the West. This creates an opportunity for Ireland to present itself as “a safe harbour,” given Ireland’s pro-business environment and global talent pool within an English speaking, common law EU country.”

He said the key question is how we position Ireland as a strategic location hub for Asian businesses that operate globally between Asia, EU and US. “Given new US protectionism, Ireland should encourage existing US multinationals in Ireland with EMEA responsibility to also take on Asia responsibilities i.e. EMEAA. This has already started internally with some US companies. The more such activities are embedded in Ireland, the more this increases commitment of these US companies to stay in Ireland.”

Mr Murray presented a briefing document to the Committee members based on the experiences and networks built up by the Asia Matters team in the five years since the organisation was founded. Asia Matters is Ireland’s only Asian Think Tank and focuses on building dynamic business links and informed understanding between Asia and Ireland to drive economic growth.

He also provided a series of policy recommendations to grow trade with Asia, focusing on financial services, food, ICT and disruptive technology, higher education and tourism.

Mr Murray said this is “the Asian Century” and the Irish economy must make a paradigm shift to capture a share of this boom. But this will require Irish policy makers and businesses to pivot away from a reliance on post-Brexit Britain and post-Trump America and to focus their efforts more directly on this economic powerhouse of the future.

The enormity of the combined Chinese, Japanese and ASEAN markets represents a scale of opportunity that is unprecedented with in excess of two billion consumers – four times that of the European Union. Amidst the challenge of Brexit with Ireland potentially losing 30% of exports to the UK (representing an annual loss of €4.5 billion in cash terms) and a rising US protectionism which may damage FDI into Ireland, Asia Matters believes that accelerated trade growth with Asia is key.

Mr Murray added: “We need to urgently and significantly accelerate trade with Asia. Over 40% of global GDP and 60% of global consumers are now based in Asia with rapidly expanding middle classes who need quality Irish products and services. By 2050 it is estimated that 50% of global GDP and 75% of global consumers will be in Asia.”

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