Saudi Arabia and Ireland entered into an agreement yesterday to establish a Saudi-Irish Business Council (SIBC) to improve bilateral trade between the two countries.
The memorandum of understanding was signed between the President of the Council of Saudi Chambers of commerce and Industry (CSCCI) Abdullah Al-Mobty and Cochairman of the proposed council Joseph Lynch at the CSCCI headquarters in the capital yesterday.
The MOU was signed in the presence of Irish Ambassador Niall Holohan and other CSCCI's key officials.
Following the inking ceremony, Al-Mobty said the accord would pave the way for increased efforts to expand business cooperation between the two countries and also explore new investment opportunities and identify areas of trade opportunities to strengthen the bilateral trade.
"The agreement would generate multifarious commercial activities in the field of trade, investment and technology transfer between the two countries," Al-Mobty said, adding that it would provide an ideal platform for businessmen to define and promote their business activities.
He pointed out that there are plenty of investment opportunities available in both countries that could be harnessed for mutual interests.
Al-Mobty said that a cochairman for the Saudi side will be elected among the businessmen at a meeting to be held shortly at the CSCCI. However, he said the two parties have appointed coordinators to draw up an action plan to improve Saudi-Irish trade.
CSCCI Secretary General Omar Bahilaiwa said the establishment of the business council is an important framework agreement for strengthening economic relations and to encourage partnerships between Saudi and Irish businessmen.
Bahilaiwa explained that the MoU stipulates that the new council will hold regular meetings between Riyadh and Dublin to identify trade and investment opportunities in the two countries. Under the agreement, he said, the two parties would facilitate the exchange of information between the two business communities on the economic situation, available market and investment opportunities and the opportunities in the industrial sector.
In his speech, Lynch hoped that the new agreement would enhance bilateral cooperation in trade, investment and exports of Irish goods to the Kingdom. He pointed out that some 2,000 Saudi students are studying in various colleges in Ireland. "They are all happy with the educational opportunities found in the country," Lynch said and called on more Saudi students to avail themselves of such opportunities.
Besides education, Lynch said that there are lots of trade opportunities in Ireland in areas such as construction, medicine, agriculture, renewable energy and technology.
Ambassador Holohan said the bilateral relations between the Kingdom and Ireland had grown enormously and the agreement would further boost the existing relations in the field of trade and investment.
He pointed out that as a follow-up to the agreement, Ireland plans to send a trade delegation in five months time to Riyadh to exchange ideas and experience with the Saudi businessmen. He said that the proposed visit would include a high-profile minister from Dublin. He added that the Saudi-Irish Joint Economic Commission has been scheduled after eight months.
The envoy said that the accord has been signed at a time when new trade and investment opportunities were available in the two countries. The current volume of bilateral trade is valued at $ 1 billion. Ireland imports largely oil from the Kingdom, which forms a major portion of the bilateral trade.
He noted that Ireland is the largest exporter of software and pharmaceutical products and has adopted Islamic banking too. "We welcome investments for this particular banking sector," he added.
Being strong in agriculture, he said , Irish expertise is well harnessed in various projects in the Kingdom including companies such as Almarai.
The ambassador said that he had made arrangements with his mission to issue entry visas to Ireland within 24 hours for Saudi businessmen. He also thanked the Ministry of Foreign Affaris for issuing entry visas to Irish businessmen to visit Saudi Arabia without any hassles.
Holohan explained that Irish food products are the best in the world and his country intends to export beef and dairy products to the Kingdom in the future.