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Ireland’s Middle East exports grow with ‘new’ economy

Ireland aims to export more medtech products and services to the UAE. Over 20 companies participated in last month’s Arab Health 2023 in Dubai Supplied
Ireland aims to export more medtech products and services to the UAE. Over 20 companies participated in last month’s Arab Health 2023 in Dubai
  • UAE export opportunities in AI, space, fintech and medtech
  • Food and drink exports to Middle East up 10% to $380 million
  • Export growth in Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Algeria, Oman and Qatar

The Republic of Ireland is targeting the UAE and the wider Middle East as a “major growth market”, with innovation at the heart of the economic relationship.

Opportunities for closer collaboration between Irish and UAE firms have been identified in the “new” economy including AI, space, fintech and entrepreneurship.

Healthcare, and medtech in particular, is also a focus and a total of 21 Irish companies participated in last month’s Arab Health 2023 in Dubai.

Ireland is one of the world’s top five medtech hubs. It exports medtech products to over 100 countries and the sector is worth over $13.9 billion.

Dara Calleary, Ireland’s minister of state for trade promotion and digital transformation, met Abdullah bin Touq Al Marri, minister of economy, during a recent visit to the UAE.

“Trade between our countries continues to grow year-on-year, and there are opportunities for innovative Irish companies to support the growth and future vision of the UAE,” Calleary said.

During the first 11 months of 2022 the volume of non-oil trade between the UAE and Ireland amounted to $907 million, up 15 percent compared to the same period in 2021. 

The UAE is considered Ireland’s number one trade partner in the region, making up 27 percent of total sales.

The Emirates, which is home to an estimated 10,000 Irish expats, imported $510 million worth of Irish goods in the first nine months of last year, an increase of 26 percent compared to the same period in 2021. 

“We are keen to bolster joint mechanisms to increase trade exchanges with Ireland, and diversify them to include areas of the new economy, including AI, space industry, fintech, and entrepreneurship, among others,” Al Marri said.

“The UAE is keen to create partnerships in line with our new economic model based on knowledge and innovation, which aligns with Ireland’s goals in digital transformation.”

Total Irish exports to the Arab world increased 23 percent in the first nine months of 2022 compared to the same period last year, according to a report by economist Jim Power on behalf of the Irish Arab Chamber of Commerce (AICC) last month.

The study showed that Ireland exported over $2.4 billion in goods to the region – a $500 million increase on the previous year.

While the UAE and Saudi Arabia were dominant markets, there were also notable increases in exports to Algeria, Bahrain, Egypt, Oman, Qatar and Yemen.

Power encouraged Irish firms looking to expand abroad to consider the Middle East and North Africa.

“The countries of the Arab World import many of the products and services that Irish companies can supply competitively,” he said.

“Connectivity is an important driver of trade in goods and services, particularly tourism in both directions. Four Arab airlines are now flying into Ireland, and the demand for more flights is strong.

“The reputation of Irish products is strong. Agricultural produce is regarded as of a high quality.

“For technology and pharmaceutical products, Ireland is recognised as a high-quality production environment.”

Irish exports to Egypt grew by 36 percent in the first nine months of 2022 to $287 million, representing the third largest market in the region after Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

Exports to Algeria jumped by nearly a third to $94.2 million, largely attributable to the agri-food sector. 

Other notable increases in exports last year were seen in Qatar (38 percent) and Oman, which soared by 176 percent, with essential oils, perfumes, cosmetics and toiletries driving the growth.

The country’s food producers are targeting growth in exports to the wider Middle East.

Jim O’Toole, CEO of Bord Bia, the Irish government agency for the food, drink and horticulture industry, said its goal is to increase exports to the region to $440 million by 2025 from only $204,000 a decade ago. 

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