The first Enterprise Ireland trade delegation to the Sultanate of Oman took place earlier in 2014. Can you elaborate on the main achievement of this mission?
My predecessor, Minister Joe Costello, led a very successful trade mission to Oman in June of 2014. The focus of the mission was on companies in the water/wastewater management sector. The mission provided relevant Irish companies with the opportunity to explore Oman's valuable and rapidly expanding market. During the visit, the Omani Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, Dr Fuad Al-Sajwani, outlined Omani requirements in relation to expertise and equipment in order to develop an indigenous dairy industry and to capitalize on Oman's rich sea fisheries resources. Dr Al-Sajwani undertook to visit Ireland with a team of experts later in 2014.
What areas of bilateral trade have the most potential for growth?
There are already 551 Omani third-level students currently based in Ireland, and we hope to see this number grow even further over the coming years. During a meeting between my predecessor and the Omani Higher Education Minister, Dr Rawya Albusaidi, it was agreed in principle to prepare a memorandum of understanding (MoU) on education, which will be signed during the next ministerial visit in either direction. Ireland is working with Oman to ensure renewed access for Irish beef to the Omani market. Oman's food requirements will have to be met by increased imports, and Irish food companies are very well placed to enter joint ventures with Omani companies to meet this growing demand.
Anticipating the evolution of Oman's economy, how do you envisage the relationship between the Sultanate and Ireland developing in the coming years?
Ireland enjoys a warm relationship with all GCC member states, including the Sultanate of Oman. Ireland and Oman have had a good history of contact and cooperation over the past 30 years. A growing number of Irish citizens work and reside in Oman. Currently, we have as many as 500 Irish nationals residing there. As Oman's economy grows, the number of Irish nationals working in Oman will also increase. Ireland aims to have close bilateral relations with the Sultanate of Oman, and we also wish to promote closer and mutually beneficial relations between the EU and the GCC. Over the coming years I look forward to working with my Omani counterparts to develop our bilateral relationship even further.