Tánaiste Leo Varadkar will lead Enterprise Ireland’s trade mission to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates this weekend.
The four-day trade mission, visiting Riyadh and Dubai, will support the accelerated recovery of Irish businesses in the export-driven Gulf region.
Concerns persist about doing business with Saudi Arabia in light of human rights abuses in the kingdom.
Amnesty International says Saudi Arabia has experienced a massive crackdown on human rights under the leadership of Mohammed bin Salman. Government critics and human rights defenders have been arrested, tortured and tried.
Conor Fahy, IMEA regional manager for Enterprise Ireland, said the issue was important.
Fahy said there was ongoing dialogue at bilateral level, following Foreign Minister Simon Coveney’s visit to Saudi Arabia in June, as well as ongoing dialogue at EU level.
He said trade relations also lead to deeper dialogue
“Enterprise Ireland’s role is to grow exports, sustain jobs and businesses across the country, and the 60 companies traveling on this mission cover every corner of Ireland, and that’s key to our business here,” Fahy said. mentioned.
Enterprise Ireland-backed business exports to the IMEA (India, Middle East and Africa) region remained strong in 2020, valued at €1.152 billion.
Irish business export growth to the UAE and Saudi Arabia last year, even amid the pandemic, increased by 12% and 6% respectively.
60 Irish companies, representing sectors such as aviation, higher education, healthcare, horses, agritech, food, fintech and construction, are taking part in the trade mission.
“It’s a very important market for our third-tier sector,” Fahy said. “For example, we have over 1,200 students studying in Ireland and we hope to double that number.
“There is huge potential in the area for education and traditionally that would be on the medical side. Every time you turn a corner here you meet a doctor who studied in Ireland,” he said.
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The mission aligns with Ireland’s participation in EXPO2020 Dubai. Twelve Enterprise Ireland corporate clients, including Dublin Aerospace, Botany Weaving, DAAI, Aero Inspection and Shannon IASC, are exhibiting at Dubai Airshow, one of the largest aviation shows in the world.
The mission is also the first high-level ministerial trade mission to Saudi Arabia in more than half a decade.
Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said the trade mission will focus on building opportunities and growing market share for Irish businesses.
“Trade will be crucial to our recovery and now, after Brexit, it is more important than ever for Irish businesses to diversify and explore new markets for their goods and services,” he added.