Dozens of Irish firms are today expected to sign major business deals in the United Arab Emirates, which now has direct air links with Dublin.
The final leg of the Government’s five-day Middle East trade mission led by Taoiseach Bertie Ahern is visiting Dubai and Abu Dhabi before winding up tomorrow evening.
Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment Micheál Martin said that Dubai is an important business hub for the Middle East and a gateway for many Irish firms trading into the Gulf region.
“With direct flights to and from Ireland, the UAE is easy to access and offers huge opportunities.”
“Irish exports to the UAE are already over €150m a year. Over the next few days we will be working to grow that business. Almost 120 firms are taking part in the mission,” he said.
Mr Martin said he and his colleagues Minister for Education and Science Mary Hanafin and Minister for Agriculture and Food Mary Coughlan will aim to strengthen close construction, technology and tourism ties between the UAE and Ireland.
“This is a time of enormous change in the Emirates as they move away from an oil-based economy. This diversification offers us many opportunities, which I look forward to exploring in the coming days.”
The Taoiseach is due to hold talks with UAE prime minister and ruler of Dubai Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum and UAE president and ruler of Abu Dhabi Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahayan.
This week’s mission, organised by Enterprise Ireland, is bringing 170 employers from 114 cross-border firms.
Enterprise Ireland believes Irish companies have the potential to take increased Middle East market share in the key sectors of telecommunications, IT, construction, banking, public sector/utilities and education and e-learning services.
In 2005, Irish firms exported €152m worth of goods and services to the Middle East region, where more than 320 million people live across 15 countries.
A Government spokesperson said: “The trade mission is also an opportunity for the Taoiseach to meet with Irish companies who are active in the region and with members of the Irish community living and working in the UAE.”
Ms Hanafin earlier confirmed that four Institutes of Technology in Ireland are to help provide training and support to aid technical education in Saudi Arabia.
More than 100 Saudi education staff will attend upgrading training courses in Ireland later this year.
“The kingdom intends to open 86 new technical colleges and are looking to Ireland’s Its for support in developing programmes and curricula, providing professional training for their trainers and sharing expertise,” Ms Hanafin added.
The four Its involved are Dublin Institute of Technology (DIT), Waterford Institute of Technology (WIT), Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology (GMIT) and Athlone Institute of Technology (AIT).
The Irish trade delegation will tomorrow attend an Enterprise Ireland business breakfast and meet Irish companies in Dubai before returning home.