The Kurdistan Regional Government UK Representative yesterday and today in Belfast met Trade Minister Arlene Foster, politicians and the private sector to forge closer ties with Northern Ireland.
On her first visit to Northern Ireland, Ms Bayan Sami Abdul Rahman met the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Investment at Parliament Buildings. Mrs Foster said, “I can see many synergies between Northern Ireland and the Kurdistan Region in terms of what our companies can provide. Just as you are the gateway to doing business in Iraq, we can also be the gateway for the Kurdistan Region to the rest of the UK and to the Republic of Ireland.”
Minister Foster added, “Kurdish companies who visit Northern Ireland will also find that we have a greater understanding of the challenge of emerging from a history of violence and terrorism.” She hopes to visit the Region for the first time next year.
During the two-day visit hosted by the government investment agency Invest Northern Ireland, Ms Abdul Rahman presented to over 40 companies the many business opportunities available in the Kurdistan Region. At the business seminar she said, “We have made great strides since 2003 and will continue to develop in many sectors. We are an outward looking society that increasingly appreciates the quality of European products. Northern Ireland companies can use the safe and stable Kurdistan Region as a gateway to doing business in Iraq.”
Many of the Northern Ireland companies who came to listen to Ms Abdul Rahman were from the construction, oil and gas and education sectors, which are ripe for trade and investment.
The Kurdistan Regional Government’s (KRG) High Representative also met Mr Alastair Hamilton, Chief Executive of Invest Northern Ireland to discuss a future trade mission to the Kurdistan Region. Ms Abdul Rahman said that the KRG already hosts many trade delegations from around the world including the UK, and will welcome Northern Ireland companies on a visit early next year.
Ms Abdul Rahman hosted a reception for Members of the Legislative Assembly, academics, councillors and business representatives. The guest of honour the Lord Mayor of Belfast Councillor Pat Convery said, “I hope that there will be growing links between the business community in Belfast and Kurdistan, which may then open the way for cultural and educational exchanges. This would be the best of worlds for everyone.”
Invest Northern Ireland arranged a women’s networking dinner for Ms Abdul Rahman with higher education leaders and a visit to Belfast’s Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute (AFBI), a research, training and consultancy centre. Ms Abdul Rahman said to AFBI’s representatives that the Kurdistan Region has great agricultural potential. Once Iraq’s breadbasket before decades of conflict took their toll, now the KRG has allocated 10 billion US dollars over the next five years to an agricultural development plan. She said that ties and exchanges with agri-food experts such as the institute could help to revive this critical sector.
The visit was arranged and hosted by John McKenna and Noel Johnston of Invest Northern Ireland.