Saturday, September 27, 2008

Cowen's Trip to China- Marketing Spin has already Begun

The Opening Ceremonies of the XXIX Olympiad, Beijing, China, August 8, 2008 -- Fireworks light the sky above the latticed steel National Stadium known as the "Bird's Nest" where an estimated 91,000 spectators, athletes, executives and world leaders were gathered - - Photo: Xinhua

Taoiseach Brian Cowen is to lead a trade mission to China in October, in an effort to boost trade with the region and to encourage inward investment.The trade mission, which is being organised by Enterprise Ireland (EI), will take place from October 19 to 24, with a planned business events in Shanghai and Beijing.

Enterprise Ireland is no doubt feverishly working on planned announcements and deal "signings" as the fiction that the presence of a politician on a trade mission is like a magic wand conjuring up business, is easily sold to the media.

The Sunday Business Post said last month that previous trade missions, have resulted in a dramatic increase in trade between Ireland and the countries visited - more than €100 million worth of deals were struck during a mission to the Middle East last year.

Impressive indeed for gullible!

If it was true, the 4 ministers in the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment could have real jobs to do, for a change.

EI is likely currently engaged in trawling for business deals over the past year, that it can tie into the China trade mission.

This in itself is harmless spoof.

What is however a serious issue, is how State agencies like Enterprise Ireland, allow themselves to be used to feed the delusions of politicians who after almost 12 years of power, believe their own propaganda.

For example on Thursday, Health Minister Mary Harney said: “There are huge markets internationally for us to compete in and win: the pharmaceutical industry, medical devices, the high-end agri and food sector, information technology, communications, financial services, biotechnology, education services.”

“None of these real markets have disappeared… [So] let the message go out: ‘Brand Ireland is not broken,’” she added.

How convenient to ignore a pertinent fact. American companies dominate exports in most of these sectors!

Harney as minister for over a decade, has about 6 "helpers" on the public payroll doing constituency donkey-work; she hasn't had to drive herself anywhere in the same period and in addition, she has advisers and other gofors attending to her needs. Should it be a surprise that she would be somewhat divorced from reality?

The Sunday Business Post reported in August that "Irish exports to China are continuing to grow, according to EI figures, which show Irish companies had exports of €1.95 billion to the region last year, a 30 per cent increase on the previous year."

According to the CSO, these are the total merchandise exports to China in 2007.

As for sales by Irish companies i.e ones that are not foreign-owned, the amount may be as low as €150 million.

The job of Enterprise Ireland shouldn't be to feed the delusions of their political masters.

The result of the spoof is an absolute misreading of the challenges for Irish-owned companies, in doing business in China and Asia.

Even decisions on the destination of the exports from the likes of Intel and Microsoft, are not made in Ireland, never mind the fakery that they are "Irish companies," beyond the legal status of their Irish units.

Irish Economy: IBEC and understanding the world East of Suez