DUBLIN – Europe is becoming a new horizon for China’s business-based diplomacy, less than a year after the European Union overtook the US to become China’s second-largest trading partner. Chinese investment expansion is increasingly turning to Europe, and it is finding a grateful audience. Last September, before the arrival of the International Monetary Fund and an €85 billion bailout offer-you-can’t-refuse for the economy once known as the Celtic Tiger, Ireland Prime Minister Brian Cowen tried to sell Chinese investors on the proposition that the country could be a low-tax Anglophone gateway to Europe. After meeting with a Politburo delegation in Dublin, Cowen said that China’s representatives had vowed to be “as helpful as they can to a friend like Ireland in the difficult times that we have.” That friendship appears to include a consortium of Chinese investors who are starting work on “an investment gateway to Europe” – an industrial park in central Ireland.
SINGAPORE — Two of the world’s most open and successful economies face tough times as the global downturn marks the end of one era and opens a new period of peril and possibility for both. Singapore and Ireland have staked their fortunes on being small, export-oriented, investor-friendly dynamos. Singapore was one of the original Asian Tiger economies, and the label passed to the Atlantic nation in the 1990s, as 15 years of 5 percent average growth earned Ireland its “Celtic Tiger” reputation. But as Kishore Mahbubani, a former Singapore diplomat and author of The New Asian Hemisphere – The Irresistible Shift of Power to the East, told The Washington Times, “being globalized has its downside – when the world economy stutters, the more open economies feel the pain first.” Both Singapore and Ireland are officially in recession, defined as two consecutive quarters of negative growth. Last week, U.S. computer giant Dell Inc. culled 2,000 jobs at its plant in Limerick in the west of Ireland, while Singapore’s Trade Ministry stated Jan. 2 that it expected the economy to contract 2 percent in 2009, the worst predicted performance of any Asian economy for the coming year.
DUBLIN — Before his recent resignation, outgoing Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern prefaced the annual St. Patrick”s Day pilgrimage to the White House by predicting “a hard year” ahead for the Irish economy. The banking crisis and credit crunch in the United States, as well as the falling dollar, worry Irish policy-makers. Ireland has 25 percent of its trade in dollars and has bet much of its recent economic boom on a 12 percent corporate tax rate — an enormous incentive for U.S. multinationals such as Intel and Microsoft to run pan-European operations out of Ireland. Google has the headquarters of its European and Middle East operations in Dublin. “The company is very pleased with how the Dublin operation continues to develop,” a Google spokesman said.