Irish companies are seeking investment and export opportunities in Saudi Arabia as part of efforts to expand economic growth, Ireland’s Enterprise Minister Batt O’Keeffe said.
“We need to grow, and we can only grow through exports,” O’Keeffe said in an interview today in Riyadh. “My presence here, my presence in Russia recently and my presence in Brazil into the future means we are targeting those high-performance countries where in fact we can sell our products.”
Ireland is seeking to shore up economic growth after slashing spending in an effort to reassure investors that the country can keep repaying debt. Saudi Arabia expects its economy to expand 3.5 percent this year as the world’s biggest oil supplier benefits from higher crude prices.
The kingdom has announced a $400 billion, five-year investment package to accelerate growth, boosting demand for construction materials and training, while the rising population is consuming more imported food.
“If you look at the Saudi economy, construction is a major feature,” O’Keeffe said. There is a “commitment to education and commitment to the financial services sector.” Ireland could also supply consultancy services, food and dairy products and educational training to the kingdom, he said in a press statement.
Saudi Arabia is Ireland’s largest trading partner in the Middle East. Ireland’s exports to the kingdom were worth 406.3 million euros ($565 million) in 2008, according to data on the website of Ireland’s Central Statistics Office.
O’Keeffe is leading a delegation of 45 Irish companies, including Allied Irish Banks Plc and Norkom Technologies, to Saudi Arabia.
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