Waterford, with its vastly improved infrastructure and road access to Dublin, is a in a strong position to attract Japanese investment in Ireland, it emerged this week.
During a visit to Waterford, Japanese Embassy official, Mr Susumu Kiyosawa, told The Munster Express there were, at present, over 40 Japanese investments in Ireland in a variety of sectors including pharmaceuticals and medical devices. More of those businesses could follow, he felt, and Waterford was in a position to capture them.
Already there is one Japanese firm in Waterford, Carten Controls, which makes high purity valves. Carten started off here as an American owned firm before being subject to a corporate takeover.
There is a cluster of firms in the pharmaceutical sector in the South East and a ready and skilled labour supply, plus science graduates from the Waterford Institute of Technology, makes Waterford a prime location.
Mr Kiyosawa, did caution that Japanese Culture was such that we needed to diplomatically press our case and show an understanding of their culture to make Japanese businessmen want to come to Waterford. We needed to be adaptable to Asian and Japanese culture if we were to get firms to come here, he said.
The IDA does promote Irish investment in Japan and our corporate tax rate of 12.5 per cent is very attractive against 40 per cent in the home country of Japan.
Mr Kiyosawa was impressed with the social partnership in Waterford. He liked how the Waterford City Council and Waterford Chamber of Commerce worked together and he also had a meeting with Chamber officials. He visited Waterford Crystal during his stay as its products sell in Japan. He said Waterford Crystal was not very famous in Japan and he believed it would take much marketing and a new minimalist style for the products to be popular there.
Mr Kiyosawa was enthusiastic about Waterford and was concerned that unemployment was so high but it was explained to him that this was the most urgent item on the agenda here.
He told the Munster Express that labour costs were relatively high in Ireland and even the minimum wage here is higher, by a euro, than the minimum wage in Japan. He saw similarities between the Japan banking crisis in the 1990s and Ireland today. Japan still has high cost problems, he acknowledged. Growth in the economy there is just one per cent a year on average.
The Embassy official pointed out that young Irish with a sense of adventure could go to Japan on a one year working holiday visa or teach English within the JET Programme. These were useful options for an unemployed graduate wanting to do a working holiday or learn an Asian culture and language.
Many Waterford people have gone there in the past and a recent one is Richie Kirwan who spent 4 years there in total and now works in the Japanese Embassy in Dublin. He spent most of his time in the Miyazaki Prefecture and is fluent in Japanese.
Mr Kiyosawa reckons we should read the Asian Classic book, ‘Art of War’, by Sun Tzu. “If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles,” was a quote he gave us. The Irish should learn more about Asian people and get to understand their mind set.
Japan should be important to Ireland’s future as we are an English-speaking gateway to Europe near England but different and more personal.
The Emperor’s granddaughter, Princess Mako, the eldest daughter of Prince Akishino and Princess Kiko, has visited Dublin and she really liked it here. She came to Ireland to study English at UCD, another source of potential business for Ireland.