Batt leads Irish firms on Middle-Eastern trade mission

The Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Innovation, Batt O’Keeffe TD, today [Monday] begins a week-long trade mission to the Middle East with 45 Irish firms aimed at landing lucrative deals and creating jobs at home.

The Enterprise Ireland trade mission to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates is the latest foreign trip led by the Government to boost exports and grow indigenous Irish firms.

The trade mission begins in Riyadh, Jeddah and Dammam in Saudi Arabia before moving on to Abu Dhabi in the UAE.

The 45 innovative Irish firms joining Minister O’Keeffe on the trade mission span a range of sectors including construction, engineering, information communications technology, education, finance and consulting.

Speaking before he left for the Middle East, Minister O’Keeffe described the trade mission as ‘an important opportunity to promote Irish firms and generate new business opportunities and jobs here at home’.

‘The Government’s overriding policy priority is the protection and creation of jobs.

‘We will use this trade mission to help Irish firms to land deals with companies in the Middle East and showcase the high-quality innovative products and services produced by our indigenous enterprises.

‘As well as that, we want to develop the political, economic and commercial ties between Ireland and Saudi Arabia and the UAE as part of efforts to capture a greater market share of the Middle-Eastern market and create jobs at home,’ said Minister O’Keeffe.

Uniquely, representatives from Allied Irish Banks, Bank of Ireland and Ulster Bank will travel on the trade mission to get an insight into the challenges faced by Irish exporting firms and advise them of the business supports they can offer.

The Government’s new integrated plan to promote overseas trade, tourism and investment, ‘Trading and Investing in a Smart Economy’, identifies the Gulf region as an emerging market.

Despite the tough global trade climate last year, Irish exports to Saudi Arabia and the UAE were €400 million and €276 million respectively.

‘Irish-owned small businesses like those accompanying us on this week’s trade mission led that dramatic growth, increasing their Saudi Arabian sales, for example, by over 60pc in very challenging trading conditions.

‘Their success shows that Irish firms can compete and win business in the Middle East and our job is to help open doors for them to land more deals and drive Ireland’s export-led economic recovery,’ said Minister O’Keeffe.

The chief executive of Enterprise Ireland, Frank Ryan, who will join
Minister O’Keeffe on the trade mission, said: ‘The Irish firms
participating on this mission are strong, technology-led and
export-focused.

‘They have become world-leaders in their respective industries with advanced innovative services and technologies that closely match the needs of the Saudi Arabian market.

‘Given their strengths and competitiveness in world markets and their
active interest in doing more business in Saudi Arabia, there is
substantial potential for an accelerated expansion of the trade partnership between the two countries.’

Saudi Arabia is Ireland’s largest export market in the Middle-Eastern region.

The UAE is a hub for business operations across the Middle East because of its location, strong air connections, liberal visa regime and increasingly pro-business environment.

More than 70 Irish firms are doing business in Saudi Arabia and 20 have a full-time market presence in the country.

A similar number of Irish firms are doing business in the UAE and 55 have a presence in the market.

The Government has led successful Irish trade missions to the Gulf region each year since 1986.

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