Deputy PM talks post-Brexit trade with the UAE

The National - News - - FRONT PAGE - SARAH TOWNSEND

Ire­land is look­ing to the avi­a­tion, fin­tech and food in­dus­tries to drive a 40 per cent in­crease in ex­ports to the UAE to al­most €2 bil­lion (Dh8.61bn) by 2020, the coun­try’s deputy prime min­is­ter and busi­ness min­is­ter said.

With Brexit cast­ing doubt on Ire­land’s re­la­tion­ship with the UK, the euro-zone coun­try seeks to lower its trade de­pen­dency on Bri­tain, and pre­dicts in­creased op­por­tu­ni­ties with the UAE as a re­sult.

“We have very good busi­ness links with the UAE,” said Frances Fitzger­ald. “At present there are 250 Ir­ish com­pa­nies ex­port­ing to the UAE – a to­tal of €1.4bn [worth of trade], which is very good but, in the con­text of Brexit, we want to di­ver­sify.

“We have a tar­get to in­crease this by 40 per cent by 2020. We’ve al­ready low­ered our de­pen­dence on the UK mar­ket.

“In terms of Brexit and ex­ports, some of our sec­tors are very de­pen­dent on the UK, so it is those where there will be a lot of op­por­tu­nity. For ex­am­ple, we see a lot of po­ten­tial for the UAE’s food in­dus­try [to im­port] spe­cial­ist prod­ucts, dairy and beef.”

The avi­a­tion in­dus­try also pre­sents growth op­por­tu­ni­ties for Ire­land and the UAE. Ire­land is a ma­jor base for the air­craft leas­ing in­dus­try, home to 14 of the top 15 global lessors in­clud­ing Ire­land’s AerCap, which is among the world’s big­gest avi­a­tion leas­ing firms with some US$41bn in as­sets.

In Au­gust, Dubai Aero­space Enterprise, the Mid­dle East’s big­gest plane-leas­ing com­pany, be­came the world’s sev­enth-largest lessor with its ac­qui­si­tion of Awas, based in Dublin.

The com­ple­tion of the deal gave DAE, which is con­trolled by the Dubai Gov­ern­ment, own­er­ship of about 400 air­craft, triple the for­mer num­ber on its books. The com­pany’s new com­bined fleet has a value of more than $14bn.

“Many other avi­a­tion-re­lated busi­nesses have sprung up in Ire­land based on the strength of the leas­ing busi­ness,” Ms Fitzger­ald said, adding: “The air­lines here [the UAE] are world­class and if you get into them, it’s a re­ally good call­ing card to tap the rest of the world.”

Ire­land’s trade pro­mo­tion body led a del­e­ga­tion of 32 com­pa­nies at the Dubai Air­show this week, among them the cabin crew train­ing firm Cut-e, the aero­space lo­gis­tics com­pany Emer­ald Aero Group and the Ir­ish tex­tiles firm Botany Weav­ing, which an­nounced a con­tract with Emi­rates to pro­duce seat cov­ers for its new busi­ness-class cabin un­veiled this week.

Fin­tech is an­other area of fo­cus for Ire­land, which, like the UAE, is in­vest­ing heav­ily in re­search and de­vel­op­ment.

Ms Fitzger­ald’s com­ments come at a tense time for Ire­land. The Ir­ish bor­der is one of the “di­vorce is­sues” the UK must re­solve dur­ing its ne­go­ti­a­tions to leave the Euro­pean Union (EU). The Ir­ish Repub­lic has sought a pledge be­fore Brexit ne­go­ti­a­tions con­tinue that Ire­land will not be di­vided along its land bor­der with the UK. How­ever, of­fi­cials have warned that avoid­ing a so-called “hard bor­der” be­tween Bri­tish North­ern Ire­land and the Repub­lic can only be done if the UK con­tin­ues to ap­ply the rules of the EU sin­gle mar­ket, with g the UK does not look like re­main­ing a part of.

Ms Fitzger­ald said she was pleased with the is­sues “Ire­land has put on the ta­ble for con­sid­er­a­tion” – among them the plea for no hard bor­der.

“The Brexit ne­go­ti­a­tions are slow at present and we want to make sure our is­sues our dealt with,” she said. “We can’t threaten the peace in Ire­land and we’re say­ing to the UK, you have to come with some so­lu­tions around this.

“It’s un­clear what those so­lu­tions will be, and it is a very crit­i­cal time.”

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