Economy, Domestic Economy

Ireland to Catch Up With Global Race to Iran

Ireland to Catch Up With Global Race to IranIreland to Catch Up With Global Race to Iran

Enterprise Ireland—Irish state economic development agency focused on helping Irish-owned business increase exports—is planning two separate market visits to Iran in the first half of 2016 as it looks to tap into the year’s largest trade opportunity.

The visits, which will center on promoting Irish interests in the areas of healthcare, information technology and communications, will follow preparatory work carried out by Enterprise Ireland in advance of sanctions being lifted last month, according to Enterprise Ireland Middle East and North America regional director, Sean Davis, Ireland’s daily The Irish Examiner reported.

“We did some exploratory visits in 2015 assessing market opportunities for client companies in Iran,” said Davis.

“Some of those areas identified included healthcare, financial technology and agricultural technology. Of course, any activities we engaged in were subject to sanctions being lifted, a significant phase of which was finalized on January 16, 2016.”

Shortly after sanctions were lifted, Enterprise Ireland held an Iran healthcare seminar in Dubai.

“That seminar was given by our Iran honorary consul general and two Tehran-based managing directors,” said Davis.

“It was well received by clients and hence we are moving to the next phase with healthcare, which is a market visit to Iran during Iran Health [international exhibition] in May 2016.”

Enterprise Ireland’s staff also visited Tehran to explore ICT opportunities for client companies. That work will be followed in March by a forum to be held in Dublin and a subsequent market visit to Iran before the second half of the year.

Davis also said Enterprise Ireland’s agricultural technology plan is less developed as it plans on using a major conference in Dubai later this year as a launchpad for the sector.

“It has, however, been developing agro tech in the Persian Gulf states for the past four years”, he added.

State agencies such as Enterprise Ireland and Bord Bia came under fire earlier this week by Irish Exporters Association chief executive, Simon McKeever, who said they had been slow to make inroads into the Iranian market.

Irish exporters are missing out on a “huge opportunity” to take advantage of the newly-open economy in Iran, he said.

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 €360 billion economy, McKeever remarked.

“What are we doing about Iran? 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; 80 million people in the country in the center of an economic region of about 300 million. So we do think the Irish Embassy in Iran should be reopened.”

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 $18 billion, while French companies were also quick to put pen to paper on further agreements when President 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.