Enlarged EU offers rich promise

THE tearing down of trade barriers with eastern and central Europe offers huge opportunities to Irish business.

Currently only 1% of our exports go to the new member states while the industries they are attracting offer huge potential for many Irish companies.

Enterprise Ireland has just launched a booklet to encourage people to consider the possibilities offered by the enlargement of the EU, especially in the former communist countries of eastern Europe.

Jim Mongey is based in Prague for Enterprise Ireland and is one of the editors of the booklet, which is available free.

During his two years as director for the Czech Republic and Slovakia, he sees new opportunities opening up almost daily.

The new members are growing rapidly and will average about 4% this year, much higher than the EU average.

There has been some focus on the threat these fledgling economies pose to Irish industry but the IDA's Colm Donlon says this is nonsense. In terms of attracting Foreign Direct Investment he says we are chasing very different clients.

Up to 2002, Ireland received over €176bn in FDI more than the combined take of the new member states from 1990 to 2003 which amounted to €132bn and was just 4% of what came into the EU 15.

Four of the new members are larger than Ireland Poland with a massive market of almost 40 million, Hungary and the Czech Republic with populations of just over 10.2 million each and Slovakia with 5.4 million.

Already several well known Irish business people have successfully cracked the new member states markets, such as John Concannon, JFC manufacturing from Tuam, Co Galway, who is in Poland; Mergon International, Castlepollard in the Czech auto business; Mouldpro, Finglas, selling domestic appliances in Slovakia and the Czech Republic; Sean Quinn involved in the Prague Hilton and Sean Mulryan in commercial development in Hungary and Slovakia.

Irish companies that sell to multinationals in Ireland have excellent prospects of selling to similar multi nationals established in these countries, says Jim Mongey.

The different countries are having success in attracting different types of industry, for instance the automotive industry is strong in Slovakia and the Czech Republic while Hungary is strong on electronics.

"Any Irish company that has built its credentials in selling to multinationals in Ireland should be looking very seriously at extending its reach," he says.

However the potential extends beyond exporting components to industry in these countries, especially since many multinationals want to have their suppliers close at hand. This offers an opportunity to establish a manufacturing unit or customer base in the new EU member states.

"Building Your Business" in the new EU states can be ordered on the Enterprise Ireland website or by e-mailing Doreen.mckeown@enterprise-ireland.com.

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