Tag Archives: Trade Division

Small Advanced Economies Initiative, Dublin Meeting

Ireland hosted the Small Advanced Economies Initiative (SAEI) last week in Dublin Castle. Never heard of it, you say. Not surprising as it’s a low profile gathering of officials and policy experts from seven countries that fit the description on the tin. It’s a forum to share ideas on three policy areas, namely foreign affairs and trade, economics and competitiveness, and science and innovation.

The SAEI was inspired and convened by New Zealand and also includes Singapore, Israel, Switzerland, Denmark and Finland. We like to keep it small so we can exchange views informally. It is very lightly managed without a permanent secretariat but the New Zealanders do a great job jollying everything and everyone into place.

In Ireland’s case, the host was a troika of the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, my Department and Science Foundation Ireland. We generated a collegial sense of working together on this which really helped generate the creative ideas needed for an engaging agenda not to mention the logistical demands of organising an international visit of some forty-seven delegates.

I am happy to say the delegates were very happy with the agenda and engaged openly and productively on its wide range of issues. We had an opening session on the relationship of small states to big neighbours (Ireland and Britain, Singapore and China) and my presentation on our relationship with Britain was helped by the venue of Dublin Castle where I could point to King John’s tower, the lynchpin of conquest since it was commissioned in 1204 (don’t worry, I got to the Celtic Tiger and Brexit within 5 minutes). Our second plenary was on “The Great Unravelling? Rising civil society discontent with globalisation: Challenge and Opportunity for small states.” We had a very useful presentation and discussion with the OECD on business success in the digital age and what the data was showing. It was clear from this new engagement that the SAEI and OECD could find some useful work to do together.

In the three strands of expert discussions we exchanged views and proposals on small state diplomacy, economic complexity trends, productivity and competitiveness, regional fragmentation, research commercialisation, ODA and climate change.

Aside from our discussions, the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Charlie Flanagan (@CharlieFlanagan), hosted a welcome reception at Iveagh House; Peter Sutherland (Attorney General, DG at the GATT and WTO, EU Commissioner for Competition) was an authoritative and compelling keynote speaker at a dinner at Farmleigh; and the delegates visited Trinity for a briefing on Ireland’s innovation system by the heads of six research centre under the expert direction of SFI’s director Mark Ferguson. Before leaving Trinity, the delegates were shown the Book of Kells, that awesome totem of Ireland’s learned antiquity.

Looking to modern frontiers, FabLabs Ireland hosted a demonstration and discussion on their ground breaking and inspiring work (check out short Ireland video here and international video here), showing the vast potential of new technology to address social and economic issues (website here) by making it available to local communities. The Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, Mary Mitchell O’Connor (@mitchelloconnor) addressed the concluding reception hosted at the Trinity Science Gallery where the delegates were treated to a survey of Irish innovation and business systems by Martin Curley (Professor of Technology and Business Innovation at Maynooth). Not bad for three days in Dublin!

The global context is now particularly challenging with stagnant trade, sluggish economic growth, regional fragmentation, public anxieties about a host of issues, the distortions of negative interest rates, doubts about globalisation and pressures against trade liberalisation, all against the frightening backdrop of climate change whose affects are here now, not in the future.

On our own small states are particularly vulnerable to the bullying effects of events, big institutions and powerful governments. The issues we discussed all related to how small states can cope in a world dominated by the agendas and interests of big powers. How can we advance the interests of our people and leverage our influence for positive outcomes? How can we shape and indeed share our policies to that effect? We and our friends in the SAEI have quite a bit of work to pick up after the Dublin meeting. That’s a very healthy indication of a productive engagement.

Eamonn

DG Trade Division, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under International, Ireland, Uncategorized

A Visit to EI’s International Markets Week

Earlier this week the Minister of State Seán Sherlock, who has special responsibility for trade at the Department, my colleagues here at Trade Division, and myself paid visits to Enterprise Ireland’s International Markets Week at the RDS. It’s a great event for Ireland’s exporters and potential exporters: they get the chance to meet with EI’s 32 international representatives who cover over 100 markets. I was accompanied by Brendan Flood, Divisional Manager for International Sales and Partnering. It was a great opportunity to meet some of EI’s representatives and indeed some of our exporters. There were specialist desks on global sourcing, capability and mentoring, public procurement, Horizon 2020, and research and innovation. AIB, Bank of Ireland and Ulster Bank were there to offer advice on capital investment.

What’s often most valuable is what generates surprise. I met for example Thessa Brongers who is EI’s representative in Lagos, Nigeria. Thessa said that the Nigerian economy is taking off and will likely enter the top twenty global economies in the coming years. We talking about a market of 170 million people and a GDP of $522 bn.

The GDP per capita income of $3,700 does not really tell you the full story about market potential. Try these instead; Telecommunications and ICT investments in Nigeria from 2001 to 2013 are estimated to be worth around $25 billion. Active lines for subscribers and data went from 96 million in 2010-11 to 127 million in 2013-2014. There are 45 million mobile phones and with wifi penetration across the country a priority, the potential for devices and the software operating them is vast. Don’t forget too that ICT often leapfrogs in African countries because they provide information and services that public systems can find challenging. Years ago on visit to Sierra Leone I was amazed to see smart-card vendors every couple of miles in what was then a war ravaged country.

In Nigeria, the market for pharmaceuticals is estimated to double from $2.3 billion (2013) by 2016: and this is a highly import-dependent market. With twenty one commercial banks and $135 billion in assets, there are enormous opportunities for financial services in the burgeoning market of financial products and insurance not to mention all the software needed for retail electronic banking, secure payments and database management.

At EI’s International Markets week you can move from these macro-economic teasers to grounded discussions with EI representatives like Thessa about whether the market is right for you and if so where to start. And if you decide to enter a market, don’t forget that the Embassy is always ready to help; our Ambassador in Nigeria is Séan Hoy and you can check out the Embassy’s website here. We’ve been there since 1960 so we know a thing or two about the place!

So if you’re thinking of exporting Enterprise Ireland is there to help and our Embassies are open for you too. Think about putting International Markets Week in your calendar for next year.

Eamonn McKee

DG, Trade Division

Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized