x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

Irish trade group leaves with deals worth millions

The deputy prime minister of Ireland leads a delegation to the UAE to build on a growing number of trade ties between the two countries.

DUBAI // The deputy prime minister of Ireland has led a delegation to the UAE to build on a growing number of trade ties between the two countries. Mary Coughlan is also known as the Irish tánaiste and serves as the country's minister for enterprise, trade and employment. She led the mission of 88 Irish companies to the UAE with Enterprise Ireland, a government agency responsible for the development and promotion of the business sector.

The agreements were from a variety of sectors such as construction, engineering, architecture, software and financial services. "The UAE is a modern, highly sophisticated market," Ms Coughlan said. "That Irish companies are winning business here is a strong endorsement of the quality and level of sophistication that characterise Irish products and services. We've had a very good few days with some very progressive meetings."

The four-day trade mission last week resulted in 32 contracts worth ?40 million (Dh186.5m) in new export sales to the UAE by Irish-based companies. That builds on an already significant upsurge in trade over the past decade between Ireland and the Emirates, which is now the fastest-growing market for Irish companies in the Gulf region. Irish exports to the UAE more than doubled in the past four years, with sales by small to medium-sized enterprises increasing by 34 per cent last year. Overall, Irish exports to the UAE last year were ?290m, with more than 35 Irish companies now operating in the UAE.

During their visit, the delegation also discussed ways to modernise government services using online technology. "Before we had a very archaic system in place and now we have speeded everything up and now the UAE government is interested in this," the deputy prime minister said. She said there were also opportunities in the UAE for skilled workers from Ireland, where unemployment is at its highest level for 10 years.

"People can come here and set up businesses and still travel home every two weeks. We were meeting a lot of Irish people doing that." Many Irish nationals have the skills required by developments and industries in the UAE, she said. Frank Ryan, the chief executive of Enterprise Ireland, said the agency had been working over several years to build exports to the UAE. "Our team in the region is actively working with UAE corporations to foster partnerships with Irish business and promote quality and innovative Irish products and services."

"A key objective of this trade mission is to highlight the product and service capability of Irish companies and to encourage mutually beneficial collaborative business ventures between Irish and Emirati businesses," Mr Ryan said. The delegation also opened a new office of Ireland's Royal College of Surgeons in Dubai Healthcare City. eharnan@thenational.ae