What opportunity do you see for further integration and partnership in higher education between Ireland and Malaysia?

COSTELLO: The university here in Perdana is an extremely interesting and valuable initiative, where the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland is now establishing a campus here in Malaysia where students can take their entire course in five years. This is extremely interesting and we want to see it develop into a full-blown university with post-graduate work as well. We have many further opportunities for education in Ireland, in terms of engineering and high-tech education, so there is a tremendous hope for further areas of education to develop between our two countries. That is the area that is probably best known between Ireland and Malaysia at the present time. A second thing is that we have a very strong financial services center in Dublin. We are in talks with the Malaysian government in relation to establishing an Islamic banking center between our two countries. That is a very exciting new development and we are interested in signing a memorandum of understanding in the distant future. There are also Irish groups here, such as Kerry Foods. There are technological groups here like OpenNet for example, that is a telecommunications company, which employs quite a lot of people. There is growth all across the board. We have had some interesting discussions with the Minister for International Trade in Malaysia earlier this morning for some of these areas.

What are the prospects for future development between Perdana University and the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (RCSI)?

COSTELLO: I think there are tremendous prospects. This is a new initiative having the campus here, which will be providing the same qualifications, the same curricula,  and the same certifications as are provided by the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland. This means Malaysians do not have to come to Ireland for their third level of education. The option is still there for them to go to Ireland and do half of their work there, but the fact that there is a new campus here will be an exciting venture into collaboration and development for further activities of this nature. We would like to see it continue and develop in terms of medicine, but we would also like to see it develop in terms of other specialties as well.

How has the Eurozone crisis impacted Ireland’s foreign trade agenda?

COSTELLO: In Ireland at the present time, we have had a number of difficult years in terms of economic crisis, banking crisis, and part of our construction industry was too focused as well. Now that has been addressed very rapidly. We had for the first year in the last four years, a GDP increase of 1.4%. We expect that to continue this year and next year. The difficulties that have been experienced have been addressed, both in Ireland and in Europe. The next stage is that we are moving into the Presidency of the European Union, which Ireland will have next year. We are anxious to develop and expand on what has been put in place in terms of fiscal rectitude, and develop that now into growth, job creation, and innovation to move forward. We expect that the coming years will be quite positive, and quite developmental in terms of the economy going forward, for both Ireland and the Eurozone.

How do you see the Irish-ASEAN trade relationship developing?

COSTELLO: Ireland is a country that exports 85% of everything it produces. We have a small population, so we do not have a big consumer base. We must export to survive. We are anxious to develop markets beyond the traditional markets. We have tremendously strong markets in the United Kingdom, the European Union, and in the United States. We are now very anxious to expand to other areas like Latin America and South Africa, but particularly into Asia’s emerging markets of China, Malaysia, and Vietnam, which is an extremely vibrant market at the present time. So Ireland is targeting all of these markets with the purpose of broadening our exports and imports, and certainly our engagement with those markets. They are very exciting for us.

Jobs are at the top of your government’s agenda. Which international markets would you identify as having top potential for trade growth?

COSTELLO: Of the traditional markets that we have, approximately 20% of everything we produce goes to the English market, another 20% goes to the United States market, and another 40% goes to the European market. We have targeted Latin America and Asia as growth areas for Irish products and businesses, and we are targeting Africa as a new emerging continent that has perhaps been neglected by all of the countries until recently. We are very much involved in Africa and we have traditional links there as well. We are seeing Irish business at the largest level ever. We are breaking records in terms of exports at the present time, and we want to continue with that. We also want to do that in conjunction with the European Union, because the European Union needs to develop its job opportunities, and its growth. If it is done collectively, it is best for Ireland too. During our Presidency of the European Union, we will be redirecting the European Union towards a growth strategy focusing on jobs, markets, and exports. That is what we will be bringing to the table to the European Union in January.

In what areas do Irish companies have the most competitive advantage?

COSTELLO: We are very strong in agri-business. We have a great track record there. We are very much at the cutting edge. Our research is top class in that area. Food ingredients are now a major part of it and we are now exporting all over the world. We are also very much at the cutting edge in terms of technology. We have all of the top companies. There are thousands of the top global companies that have their headquarters in Ireland. The two big areas would be agri-business and modern technology.