Iran offers ‘huge opportunity’ for Irish exporters

Irish exporters are missing out on a “huge opportunity” to take advantage of the newly-open economy in Iran, the head of the country’s export association has claimed.

A slow response from government agencies to the lifting of economic sanctions last month has allowed others to steal a march on tapping into the €360bn economy, Irish Exporters Association chief executive, Simon McKeever, claimed.

“What are we doing about Iran?” he said.

“We’re the only EU country that doesn’t have a [trade] mission [to Iran].

"We see opportunities for Irish companies out there in the food and drink sector and dairy sector, engineering, ICT.

"We see it in automotive and in the aircraft leasing sector.

“There are huge opportunities out there; 80m people in the country in the centre of an economic region of about 300m. So we do think the Irish embassy in Iran should be reopened.”

Speaking on the eve of the association’s Export Leadership Forum which runs today and tomorrow in Croke Park, Mr McKeever pointed to the deals struck by Italian and French representatives with Iranian president Hassan Rouhani during his visit to the countries at the end of last month.

Italian firms alone signed deals worth $18bn (€15.9bn), while French companies were also quick to put pen to paper on further agreements when Mr Rouhani arrived.

A Department of Foreign Affairs spokesperson said: “There has always been interest in the opportunities presented by the removal of sanctions on Iran, and the Irish Government will do what it can to assist those who wish to explore this opportunity.

"It is important to note however that the main Irish sectors for exports to Iran — food and medical supplies — were never subject to sanctions.

“State agencies Bord Bia and Enterprise Ireland are aware of the market and have already made visits to Iran.

"Ambassador Brendan Ward in Ankara, who is accredited to Iran, has also made a number of visits there, combining both political and commercial contacts.”

Mr McKeever said increasing resources to Enterprise Ireland, IDA, and Bord Bia could help open up access in emerging markets in Asia, the Middle East, and Africa.

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