During 2016, Ireland’s 80-strong network of Embassies and Consulates supported 22 high-level trade missions led by a range of Government Ministers across all Departments to 17 countries in Europe, Asia, North America, Africa and the Middle East. Some 457 Irish companies took part in these trade missions, benefiting from high-level access and introductions to contacts in their fields as part of efforts to increase their overseas business and raise awareness of their companies abroad.
Advancing Ireland’s trade, tourism, education and investment objectives is an important aspect of Ireland’s foreign policy and of the Department’s work. The Embassy and Consulate network also actively supports this goal, as well as engaging in economic diplomacy more generally.
Ministerial-led Trade Missions are designed to complement the ongoing year-round work of our Embassy/Consulate network and State Agencies in promoting awareness of and confidence in Ireland as a place to invest and do business. They are a key component of our overall market diversification strategy, as we develop our economic resilience in response to challenges in the international trading environment. The programme of trade missions is developed jointly by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, Enterprise Ireland and other Government Departments and State agencies. It reflects our high level goals in priority markets and supports our efforts to develop opportunities in new and emerging markets for Irish companies.
Two economic sectors that received particular emphasis in 2016 were agri-food and education.
In September, Minister for Education and Skills Richard Bruton T.D. led an education trade mission to China. One outcome of this trade mission was the signature of 26 Memoranda of Understanding with Chinese third level education institutes. There are now c. 160 bilateral agreements in place between Irish and Chinese higher level education institutions. With over 5,000 Chinese students registered at Irish higher education institutions, education cooperation continues to be an important element of our overall engagement with China.
Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Michael Creed T.D. and Minister of State Andrew Doyle T.D. led further trade missions throughout the year to China, Singapore, South Korea, Vietnam and Morocco, supported by Bord Bia, Enterprise Ireland, Sustainable Food Systems Ireland (SFSI) and other Departments, as well as the Embassies / Consulates concerned. The successful outcomes of these trade missions included the opening of markets for Irish beef in Canada, Israel and New Zealand. The US authorities also formally opened the market for Irish beef for grinding into the U.S.