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Ireland to open investment office in China
Updated: 2005-05-20 21:46

Ireland, which boasts the strongest economy in western Europe thanks in part to attracting strong US investment, announced Friday that it's turning its attention to wooing business with China.

Ireland's Investment and Development Agency said it will open its first office in China in September in the commercial center of Shanghai. The IDA is considered a world leader in wooing multinationals to this country of 4 million.

While more than 500 US companies have European operations in Ireland, mostly since the mid-1990s, just one Chinese company has opened up shop here - Huawei Technologies Co., which manufactures telecommunications equipment. It is supplying an Irish broadband startup called Smart Telecom.

Foreign companies typically cite several factors in preferring Ireland as a base within the 25-nation European Union: membership in the euro common currency; strong connections between universities and employers; an English-speaking work force; and perhaps above all, its unusually low 12.5 percent rate of tax on corporate profits. Other western European nations' corporate tax rates average three times higher.

The most frequently cited criticisms of Ireland as a business location are its exceptionally high cost of living, by some measures the highest in the EU; its inconsistent infrastructure outside of Dublin; and its slow rollout of broadband services.

``We think Chinese firms will be attracted to Ireland as the gateway to Europe,'' said IDA official Gus Jones, who will direct the Shanghai office. ``We'll be looking to attract EU headquarter functions and the type of shared services centers that companies use to service European operations.''

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