Ireland will take its largest international trade mission since 2019 to the UAE and Saudi Arabia this month when a delegation of 60 Irish companies heads to the region to boost trade ties with the Gulf states.
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment Leo Varadkar will lead the four-day mission in conjunction with Enterprise Ireland, the Irish government’s trade and innovation agency.
Mr Varadkar said he hoped the trip will strengthen Ireland’s close bonds with the two countries.
“The Gulf region is strategically important for Ireland with Saudi Arabia and the UAE in particular, being major trading partners," Mr Varadkar said.
“Last year, even with Covid-19, Irish exports to the UAE grew by 12 per cent and to Saudi Arabia by 6 per cent and we’re committed to growing this even further.”
Saudi Arabia and the UAE are the two most important markets in the Gulf region for Irish companies supported by Enterprise Ireland, with exports topping close to €320 million in 2020 despite the challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Looking at the wider region, exports by Enterprise Ireland supported firms to the India, Middle East and Africa region remained strong in 2020, valued at €1.152 billion.
During the trip, Mr Varadkar will first visit Saudi Arabia, making the first high-level ministerial trade mission to the country for Ireland in over half a decade, with a programme dedicated to sectors such as aviation, higher education, construction, healthcare, financial services, agri-tech, and equine.
During a visit to the Saudi capital Riyadh, Mr Varadkar will hold bilateral meetings with government officials to explore "mutually beneficial opportunities" for the growing list of Irish companies looking to do business in the country.
On the second leg of the trip, Mr Varadkar will head to the UAE to attend the Dubai Airshow where Enterprise Ireland will showcase the Irish Aviation House to promote the country's aviation and aerospace ecosystem.
Leo Clancy, chief executive of Enterprise Ireland, which has three offices in the GCC, in Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Riyadh, will join Mr Varadkar on the trip to support Irish companies looking to access export and partnership opportunities with the region.
“The UAE and Saudi Arabia have huge potential as further growth markets for Irish companies who are seeking to expand their international reach,” said Mr Clancy.
“This trade mission will be the biggest single trade mission undertaken by Enterprise Ireland this year and demonstrates the strong interest of Irish companies in doing business in Saudi Arabia and the UAE.”