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Sunday, June 24, 2007

Minister Martin's delusional "Asia Strategy"

Micheál Martin TD, Minister for Enterprise, Trade & Employment

Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Michéal Martin on Tuesday last expressed satisfaction with the latest trade statistics.

Martin said that he was particularly pleased to note the strong export performance in a number of our markets in the first quarter of 2007 compared to the same period last year. Exports to China and Hong Kong were up by 37% and to the Philippines by 88%.

The Minister said "this strong performance in this region reflects our ongoing efforts to promote and grow our markets through our Asia Strategy."

He did not refer to the fall in exports to Malaysia by 31%. Besides, exports to India increased by €3.9 million to €37 million in the quarter- not a great gaisce in respect of the region's second economic powerhouse.

Then again, it's no big deal because the so-called Asia Strategy is either a manifestation of Minister Martin's delusions or an artful example of spin that even IBEC, the main Irish business representative organisation, has fallen for.

Earlier in June, Martin said in an address to a conference on China, at University College Cork, provided a vivid example of the conflation of the performance of multinationals in Ireland with the small indigenous sector.

Martin said: "Ireland’s knowledge –based economy, built on innovation and technology, is substantially shaped by the emergence of strong technology-led and export-focused Irish companies. Companies, which have become world leaders in their respective industries."

The danger in the yarn that the Minister is spinning is that rather than face reality, some people may well buy this "Asia Strategy."

The export performance that he is bragging about relates to decisions that are made by the likes of Intel, Microsoft and Pfizer - supply decisions that generally are not made in Ireland.

There is no reference to the small number of Irish-owned firms that are exporting to Asia and for that matter to all regions outside of the UK.

So with the "Asia Strategy" going well, maybe we need similar strategies elsewhere. Wwhy did exports to Italy fall by 15% and to France by 7%.

We should be careful what we wish for, because perish the thought, the Minister might add a line to the blank job specs of one of his junior ministers and hey presto, we will get a "Europe Strategy."

Irish Economy: No crash in sight nor credible strategy to maintain export-led growth in long term; Overseas commercial property to remain investment of choice