Company story:

Trade agreements put small countries on the map

Trade agreements put small countries on the map

ABCON may be a small business in a small country but trade agreements gives us international reach.
Barry Smith
Director, ABCON

The company located in rural Ireland has been manufacturing specialist abrasive products for difficult access areas or to achieve particular finishes on metal surfaces since 2005. Their products are used in precision engineering, the aerospace industry, and the automotive sector, among others. Thanks to the trade agreements, they now have customers in South Korea, Chile, Singapore, and Canada, to name but a few.

Reaping the benefits of reduced paperwork

“We produce a niche product that can be packaged and shipped at a price point the market can accept, alongside excellent service and technical support”, Mr. Smith says.

In the case of ABCON’s specialist products, the trade agreements do not make a big difference to pricing as the WTO tariff on these products is already low, at 2-3%. Where ABCON really feels the benefit of trade agreements is in reduced paperwork and speed through customs.

"Before the EU-Canada trade agreement (CETA), it could take 12-15 days to get our products through customs but thanks to CETA, shipments now get through customs in one day. The paperwork required has also decreased which eases the pressure on our logistics team", Mr. Smith says.

When ABCON started trading, they had nine employees. Today, they have 140 full-time staff making the company a major employer in the region. In addition to those they directly employ, they work with local suppliers and subcontractors for various services. In this way, trade agreements have positive effects on EU companies that may not even be export oriented.

Getting noticed in Japan

ABCON is now moving into the Japanese market and this is a direct result of the EU-Japan trade agreement. Mr. Smith says: “‘before the agreement, there was almost no possibility of ABCON trading there as Japan is a very difficult market and we have no traction in the country.” For the first time, they are now receiving enquiries from potential customers in Japan. Recently, EEN member Enterprise Ireland brought a contingent of Japanese businesspeople to Ireland and they visited the ABCON site. The Japanese visitors had little prior knowledge of Ireland, and the EU-Japan trade agreement was a key attraction. 

"Potential customers are often aware of Ireland for its tourism or perhaps its pharmaceutical industry, but not necessarily as an industrial supplier and trade agreements are a powerful tool in changing these perceptions. Now more than ever, EU trade agreements are creating big opportunities for small businesses" says Mr. Smith.

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