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People's Daily Online>>Foreign Affairs

Ireland the 'Hong Kong of Europe'

By Zhang Haizhou and Cecily Liu (China Daily)

09:18, February 21, 2012

LONDON - Irish business leaders are eyeing China as a huge export market, while Dublin sees itself as an ideal destination for Chinese investors seeking opportunities in Europe.

Ireland's low corporate tax rate and its language advantage as the only English-speaking country in the eurozone are seen as major attractions for more potential Chinese enterprises.

"China's investments in Ireland had a slow start, but significantly grew in the last two to three years," said Brian Conroy, director of Asia-Pacific at Industrial Development Agency, Ireland's investment promotion agency.

Many Chinese businesses, including Bank of China, Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, China Development Bank, and leading telecom equipment companies Huawei and ZTE, have expanded to Ireland in the past few years, according to Conroy.

Conroy has noticed that Chinese investors now "tend to focus on R&D, customer support, branding and services, and hence are employing more people", compared with five or six years ago, when "most European offices set up by Chinese businesses were sales offices".

"Ireland is home to high-tech companies, so we are the second-largest exporter of software technology, which gives Chinese companies opportunities to partner with Irish companies," said Conroy, who expects more future investment in financial services, life sciences, information and communication technology, Internet, wind energy and clean technology.

Ireland remains a hub for international brands. Google, Facebook and Intel all run major European operations in Ireland, lured by its low corporate tax of 12.5 percent.

Conroy's message came as Vice-President Xi Jinping arrived in Ireland on Saturday with a business delegation of Chinese companies. The Industrial Development Agency will then host a major forum to advertise business opportunities in Ireland.

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