Free Trade Agreements are worth potentially billions of Euros to exporting Irish businesses. How can more firms capitalise on the opportunities?

Enterprise Ireland wants to boost the number of Irish firms benefiting from Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) to export to Japan, South Korea and Mexico.

Japan, South Korea and Mexico are among the largest economies of the world and had a GDP of $5.01trn, $1.65trn and $1.27trn respectively in 2019, according to the World Bank.

“As market access increases, Irish exporters can reap the benefits from the competitive advantage that these Free Trade Agreements provide”

A recent study into Irish trade activity into four countries that Ireland has Free Trade Agreements with – Canada, Japan, South Korea and Mexico – showed that FTAs are opening up new market opportunities for Irish firms, especially in areas like business and ICT services, chemicals and pharmaceuticals, electric machinery, wholesale and retail and other manufacturing.

However, according to a recent Enterprise Ireland survey, while 83pc of respondents indicated that a Free Trade Agreement would increase their likelihood of exporting to Japan, South Korea or Mexico, less than 50pc were aware of the agreements in place with these markets.  

Increase trading relationships

Enterprise Ireland will this week host the first of a three-part webinar series that will highlight the importance of Free Trade Agreements in aiding Irish companies to boost their exports and increase trading relationships with Japan, South Korea and Mexico.

Doing Business in Japan will take place on Thursday 117 June, Doing Business in Mexico will take place on Tuesday 22 June and Doing Business in South Korea will take place on Thursday 24 June.  Those interested in attending can register here or visit the Enterprise Ireland website www.globalambition.ie

The Free Trade Agreement webinar series will feature insights from Enterprise Ireland and will explore the experiences of Irish companies currently trading in Japan, South Korea and Mexico. They will explain business culture and processes and provide practical guidance for market entry. The webinars will also outline networks and access supports available to capitalise on what are increasingly important markets for ambitious Irish exporters.

“The EU’s Trade Agreements with countries like Japan, South Korea and Mexico present further opportunities for Irish companies looking to grow internationally,” explained Tom Cusack, head of International Sales and Partnering at Enterprise Ireland.

“As market access increases, Irish exporters can reap the benefits from the competitive advantage that these Free Trade Agreements provide. During this webinar series, business leaders and market experts will highlight opportunities, explain business culture and processes, and provide practical guidance for market entry to aid Irish exporters in maximising the benefits that Free Trade Agreements have to offer. I urge anyone that is considering expanding into new markets to sign up to these webinar events to get practical advice on each of these unique markets.”

Big in Japan

Enterprise Ireland supported company exports to Japan reached €225m in 2019.  Over 60 indigenous Irish companies have representation in Japan; with more than 150 regular exporters to Japan. Sectors and companies where Irish firms have world-class offerings are the likeliest to find success in the Japanese market.

“Japan is the third largest economy in the world and despite a downturn caused by the pandemic last year, the Japanese economy grew at an annual rate of 12.7pc in the last quarter of 2020,” Cusack said.

Enterprise Ireland supported company exports to South Korea reached €97.8m in 2019. An immediate focus for the South Korean government is delivering on major projects focused on digital transformation and low-carbon economy.

“The export potential for Irish companies in South Korea is increasing across all sectors, with important growth sectors being digital technologies, aviation and aerospace, life sciences, education and agritech and agri-machinery,” said Cusack.

In 2019, 130 Enterprise Ireland companies reported exports to Mexico, with sales of €83m.

“We have experienced growing exports and increased opportunities in Mexico for Irish companies in recent years. Mexico is an ideal entry point into Latin America for Irish companies. Sectors for which Mexico provides opportunities for Irish companies include manufacturing, automotive, engineering, ICT, telecommunications, aerospace, fintech and software services,” concluded Cusack.

The Minister for Trade Promotion, Digital and Company Regulation Robert Troy, TD, said that Ireland is one of the world’s most open, export-based economies and relies on external demand and access to international markets.

“Trade represents an increasingly important means of creating jobs and has been a key factor in Ireland’s export-led recovery in recent years. Fundamentally, the more we trade, the more jobs we support and the better the living standards for everyone.

“Free Trade Agreements bring important benefits to everyone. For consumers they keep prices down and provide greater choice to what is on offer. They open new markets for Irish companies and professionals and break down red tape and other barriers to trade and investment. The abolition of tariffs makes our imports cheaper, and our exports more competitive. These Agreements are particularly important to SMEs to enable them to internationalise and grow exports, given that trade barriers tend to disproportionately burden smaller firms which have fewer resources to overcome them than large firms.”

Troy concluded: “Given the year that was, between Brexit and Covid-19, now more than ever we need to seize on the opportunities afforded by these Free Trade Agreements and support our exporting companies to diversify further. The Free Trade Agreements with Japan, Mexico and the Republic of Korea all present vibrant opportunities to exciting new markets for Irish companies.”

By John Kennedy (john.kennedy3@boi.com)

Published: 14 June 2021