Post Brexit, India can use Ireland as window to EU: Envoy

N Ramakrishnan Chennai | Updated on November 24, 2019

Brendan Ward, Ireland’s Ambassador to India

The two nations share interests in several sectors

Ireland is wooing Indian companies that have plans of going global, especially if they are targeting the European Union, to set up operations in the country. With the UK exiting the European Union, Indian companies can use Ireland to tap into the larger European market, according to Brendan Ward, Ireland’s Ambassador in India.

“Not every Indian company would wish to leave the United Kingdom after Brexit. Many of them were established specifically for the British market. But those that have European interests and that are looking at the wider European market, then a location in Ireland might very well make sense. A lot of them are looking at that at the moment. We are in contact with those who we think might benefit from having a presence in Ireland,” Ambassador Ward, who assumed office in August, told BusinessLine here.

The Ambassador and his economic team met some Chennai-based companies last week, explaining to them the benefits of establishing a base in Ireland. Around 100 Indian companies already have operations in Ireland, according to Ward.

There is a substantial Indian population — 35,000-40,000 — in Ireland, accounting for almost 1 per cent of the country’s population. “It means that there is a critical mass to allow community events, cultural and social events...slightly better Indian restaurants than we have had in the past,” says Ward.

Areas of synergy

Some of the sectors that are important in Ireland are agriculture and food, pharmaceuticals, ICT, life sciences, financial services, future mobility and technologies such as artificial intelligence. These sectors are important to the Indian economy too and hence there are possibilities of synergies and for exchanges through research initiatives, according to him.

On his meeting with Chennai-based companies, Ward said most of them were quite positively disposed. “What we focussed on in the meetings was in advising them of the advantages and how they could benefit if they were going to globalise, if they are looking to have a footprint in Europe, if they are interested in research cooperation,” he said.

There are Irish Government agencies, with offices in Mumbai, that can assist Indian companies in setting up operations in the country.

“Ireland,” Ward said, “offers a few advantages which many other European States don’t, such as a competitive tax system and a very clear and simple one. Also, somewhat easier labour laws than many other European Union States. Of course, we have high standards for the protection of workers, but some of the measures in other European Union member States make for a very inflexible labour market. We do promote flexibility and a business-friendly atmosphere.”

There are over 5,000 Indian students studying in universities and colleges in Ireland. This year, around 2,000 Indian students have gone to study in Ireland and the number is increasing every year.

The education system in Ireland is similar to that in Britain. Ireland, according to the Ambassador, offers students the opportunity of working for two years after they graduate; they can do part-time work even as a student to pay a part of their education expenses.

Besides, there are a lot of research collaborations between Indian companies and Irish universities.

Bilateral trade between Ireland and India was growing at a healthy rate. In 2018, overall trade in goods was about $1 billion, with the balance in India’s favour. However, trade in services was around $3 billion, heavily weighed in Ireland’s favour. This, the Ambassador said, was not a matter of concern for either of the countries.

Exotic locales too

Ward said Ireland could do a lot more to attract India film producers looking for exotic locales to choose the country for their films.

This, in turn, would push up tourism from India. Ireland had a fairly vibrant film industry. There was a lot of cooperation in post-production work, especially in special effects, between Indian film producers and Irish companies.

On the long-drawn discussions over a free trade agreement between the EU and India, the Ambassador said the positions of the EU and India were still far apart and work was going on to bridge those gaps, with agriculture being one of the major sticking points. He hoped that there would be significant progress in the discussions before the EU-India summit slated for next year.

“We would like to see significant progress on the FTA and use the summit as an opportunity to give it a boost. But the current state of negotiations doesn’t indicate that is likely,” he added.

Published on November 24, 2019

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