VANCOUVER – While economic uncertainties rock the globe, Ireland is betting on Canada’s construction industry.
Enterprise Ireland, an Irish government organization dedicated to the development and growth of Irish enterprises in world markets, met with the British Columbia construction industry on Sept. 18 at the B.C. Construction Roundtable.
Enterprise Ireland Canada market executive Malachy O’Doherty said the organization works with overseas experts to identify where there might be a need for Irish companies and then build a “short pipeline of companies” to local industry and form partnerships.
“The whole idea behind forming a partnership is that there’s value gained for everyone, the Irish company and in particular the company within the market we’re introducing them to,” O’Doherty said.
Representatives from Irish companies GoContractor, which specializes in construction technology and onboarding, and insulation materials firm Kingspan were on hand to lend their perspective as participants in Enterprise Ireland’s mission.
“The main benefit of being an Irish company working in Canada is that we have an extensive network of Irish Canadians. They’re super helpful for getting into the company and giving us that opportunity to win business,” GoContractor account executive Stephen Samuels said.
“The advantage for Kingspan is brand recognition and networking. There’s been many contacts made through Enterprise Ireland for the business,” Kingspan Group business development manager Andrew Williams said.
O’Doherty pointed to the recent Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) as an opportunity for both Canadian and Irish firms.
“CETA has eliminated restrictions on access to public contracts, so Canadian firms can apply for a municipal contract in the EU, and vice versa. If a product is tested here in Canada, it can go into Europe with no restrictions, and CETA also eases staff being sent to the EU to work,” O’Doherty said.
“One of the things Irish companies do which is certainly an advantage for Canadian companies is they’ll supply the product and fit the product, supplying it into the market and then sending people over to put it in place which saves resources for the Canadian companies in terms of labour,” he added.
Brexit is “the most significant economic challenge of past 50 years,” O’Doherty said. “We expect long-term, structural and disruptive change.”
Brexit may present new opportunities between Canada and Ireland, he added.
“The United Kingdom always has been and always will be our nearest and dearest trading partner but looking at new markets is something companies have to do. There’s great opportunities for Irish companies and for Canadian companies, especially on the supply chain side,” O’Doherty said.
CETA will also reduce trade friction once Brexit is enacted, he added, but the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the European Union might also present some positives for Canadian firms.
“CETA’s aim is to reduce 98 per cent of tariffs on industrial goods between the European Union and Canada, so now more so than ever there’s an opportunity for Canadian companies to start supplying into the Irish market, and Brexit is also an opportunity for Canadian companies to set up a presence in Ireland,” O’Doherty said.
“There are 70 Canadian companies employing over 10,000 people in the Irish economy and some of those companies set up operations in Ireland as a result of Brexit to ensure they can serve the EU market post-Brexit,” he added.
O’Doherty also expressed optimism at the prospects of future collaboration between Canada and Ireland.
“You look at the impact on the environment globally, and there’s opportunities for companies to make a difference here in Canada. In Ireland there are a number of highly innovative companies on the green innovation side, so I think there’s great opportunities for them to work in collaboration with Canadian companies to share their knowledge and work together on construction projects,” O’Doherty said.