Australia - an Irish stepping stone into Asia

Australia - an Irish stepping stone into Asia

By Mark Chillingworth

Irish technology companies in the Australian market received presidential support yesterday. President of Ireland Mary McAleese was in Sydney to spearhead further deals between Irish technology suppliers and Australian business consumers.

"We see this market as an excellent stepping stone into Asia,"

Five Irish technology companies this week announced partnerships and contracts with the Australian market. Financial software specialists Eontec has signed a strategic alliance with the local branch offices of Sun Microsystems and IBM, the Australian Computer Society is to use Irish e-learning applications from Educational Multimedia, and the local branch of American truck engine manufacturer Cummins is also using an Irish e-learning application.

These new deals build on an already strong presence in the technology sector for Irish companies. Enterprise Ireland, the organisation behind the President's visit, states that software for financial services, telecommunications, utilities, e-learning and Web services are the main growth sectors for exporters into the Australian market.

"We see this market as an excellent stepping stone into Asia," the President said in her speech; adding that there is a strong awareness of Ireland in Australia.

The current downturn in the technology industry has been hard on Australia and Ireland, but the President was upbeat and believes that Ireland and Australia will bounce back with strength. "If we are waiting around to meet in happy times and non-crisis times, we may never meet," she said.

Like many, Mrs McAleese believes that the situation is not a down turn, but a "re-calibration" of the market. "I think the market is more sensible than it was. The over inflation has been stamped out, and there is now a big big dose of common sense coming to the market and there is a new air or realism," she said.

Speaking of Ireland's ability to bounce back from the currently slow market, she said, "We are a very proud generation in Ireland, as we are known for being a supplier of such good quality products."

Currently Ireland helps contribute to Australia's trade deficit, which stands at AU$1 billion and rose again this year. Imports rose by 1 per cent ($13.8 billion) and exports have continued to fall and are now down to $12.6 billion. Irish exports to Australia were valued at 618 million Euros in 2002; the Australian dollar is worth just 55 Euro cents. Technology and data processing machines constituted 20 per cent of Irish exports to Australia, whilst the value Australian export to Ireland was just 108 million Euros, and technology only made up 10 per cent of that.

Mrs McAleese said Irish companies were "good at finding customisable spaces and good at user markets," which is why they are successful in the Australian tech sector.

Although John Howard wishes to drive Australian trade towards the US, Ireland see Australia as a stepping stone to Asian markets.

"We see Australia as an important part of that [push in to Asia] and you can help us penetrate this market. There is no corner of the market that we are frightened to go into," Mrs McAleese said.

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