Ambassadors say Ireland needs to improve Asia engagement – RTÉ This Week

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KUALA LUMPUR – Speaking at the Asia-Pacific Ireland Business Forum in Malaysia Friday, Ireland’s ambassador based in Singapore said that the Irish Government needs to do more in Asia.

Ambassador joe Hayes’ brief in Singapore  covers the world’s 4th biggest country Indonesia, one of the world’s fastest growing economies but one where Ireland is not making an impact, he says.

“All of the EU has a footprint in Indonesia except Ireland and Luxembourg,” Hayes told the APIBF, an annual gathering of Irish business executives covering a region from the Gulf to Japan.

Hayes criticised the Irish Government for not sending top-level government rep. to an upcoming summit in Laos, the 9th Asia-Europe Meeting, or ASEM, which will take place Nov. 5-6 in Vientiane.

“I am coming to the end of my career,” Ambassadaor Joe Hayes said, addressing an audience that included Joe Costello, Minister of State at the Dept. of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

While Ciaran Cannon, Minister of State at the Dept. of Education and Skills, will attend the ASEM summit on behalf of Ireland, Foreign Secretary William Hague will represent the UK, while President Francois Hollande will represent France, The gathering  will otherwise feature mostly heads of state and heads of government from most Asian and European countries, including China, likely to be the world’s biggest economy by mid-century.

The APIBF takes place in an Asian city each year, usually on a Friday in October, with the rest of the weekend taken up by the Asian Gaelic Games. Friday’s event was more muted than previous years, however, possibly due to timing, with this years’ event taking place on a Friday in Muslim-majority Malaysia on the weekend of Eid-al-Adha, a major Islamic holiday.

Éamon McKee, Ireland’s Ambassador in Seoul, pleaded with the Government to send representatives to Asia more regularly, saying that the relationship between the public and private sector was closer in many Asian countries than in the West, reasoning therefore that official visits could help open doors for Irish businesses in Asia.

Defending the government – and previous administrations – Min. Costello said on Friday that, “Yes, we do have an Asia strategy and have had one since 1999,” adding that the plan was last revised in 2010. Costello reminded that China’s likely next leader Xi Xinping visited Ireland earlier this year, a trip that was followed by Taoiseach Enda Kenny’s visit to China.

Costello pointed out numerous recent trips he had made to Latin America, Europe and scheduled visits to Africa as evidence of the Irish Government’s trade and investment promotion overseas.

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