Lyons visits UAE to bolster relations ahead of Northern Ireland day at Expo 2020

Economy Minister Gordon Lyons today began his first official visit to the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

By Gordon Lyons MLA

East Antrim

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The Minister has been meeting key government officials, university leaders and business stakeholders to explore how Northern Ireland businesses can strengthen their economic growth in the UAE. He will also visit the UK Pavilion at Expo 2020.

Speaking at the end of the first day of the two-day trade and investment programme, Minister Lyons said: “The UAE is an important trading partner for Northern Ireland businesses and our companies are already making a strong impact in the region, with many success stories. From supplying carpet to the Burj Al Arab, a seven-star hotel in Dubai, to partnering in the first Medical College in Dubai and supporting the set-up of the world’s largest dairy farm in Saudi Arabia.

“My Department’s 10X economic vision sets out the importance of trade and investment to support our economic transformation over the next decade. My visit this week is an important opportunity to support this vision and build on our growing reputation in this market.”

In the 12-month rolling period from April 2020 to March 2021, Northern Ireland exports to the UAE totalled £33.5million.

The Minister said: “I visited the Mohammed Bin Rashid University of Medicine and Health Sciences (MBRU) in Dubai Health Care City. I saw first-hand how a partnership with Queen’s University Belfast is helping MBRU achieve its vision to be an internationally-recognised provider of high quality healthcare education. I also heard from students who had benefitted from the link-up with QUB.”

The Minister also met with a number of Northern Ireland companies which have a presence in the UAE to discuss the opportunities to improve trade and investment links.

He then went on to attend the NI Connections Re-launch event where he met with members of Northern Ireland’s diaspora community in Dubai.

The Minister said: “It was also a pleasure to meet today with Northern Ireland companies who are operating in the UAE. It was useful to hear how many are seeking to expand their operations in the region.

“Many of our diaspora are located in this region and I was delighted to be able join them to officially relaunch NI Connections. Dubai is home to a strong group of NI Connections diaspora and I would like to commend them for their support which is helping to strengthen our international reputation and ability to attract investment.

“I look forward to the rest of my visit where I will have the opportunity to see the progress being made at the UK pavilion at EXPO 2020, as well as supporting Northern Ireland companies at The Mining Show 2021.”

Expo 2020 Dubai was postponed due to Covid-19 until October 2021, and will run until 31 March 2022. On 16 February 2022, Northern Ireland will take over the UK Pavilion event space, bringing a flavour of Northern Ireland to the world, sharing the best of our nation and our people; from culture to tourism, business to education.

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