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Taoiseach and Ministers conclude successful Team Ireland Trade Mission Week to Korea

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and three Government Ministers have concluded Ireland’s first Trade Mission Week in the Republic of Korea with a series of high-level meetings with key political, business and education decision makers. 

The Taoiseach, the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment Simon Coveney TD, the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Charlie McConalogue TD, and the Minister for Further and Higher Education, Simon Harris TD used the three-day visit to build connections and open-up new opportunities for Irish companies in a like-minded country to Ireland.

Watch on YouTube: Team Ireland Trade Mission Week to Korea - YouTube

During the week, the Taoiseach met with President Yoon Suk Yeol and some of Korea’s main business leaders. Speaking following his meeting with President Yoon, the Taoiseach said it had been an opportunity to deepen political, economic, education and cultural ties between Ireland and Korea.

Korea is the world’s 12th largest economy and the 4th largest economy in Asia. Minister Coveney met with the Minister for Trade Industry and Energy Mr. Dukgeun and discussed ways to expand trade and investment links under the EU-Republic of Korea Free Trade Agreement, and the recently signed Green and Digital Partnerships.

Minister Coveney said it was clear from his meetings that the Korean market held great opportunities for Irish businesses:

“There is already promising investment from Korea to Ireland, but there is scope for more major Korean conglomerates to invest in Ireland and benefit from our skilled workforce and our place in Europe. The meetings this week were an opportunity to make this case to key decision-makers. I signed Memorandums of Understanding between Irish and Korean companies in fintech and renewable energy. The Taoiseach and I also held a number of round-table discussions with business representatives, and between Irish delegation members and Korean counterparts.

Irish trade with Korea is rooted in cutting edge ICT, pharma and biopharma, life sciences, and agritech, with a strong emphasis on B2B work. The opportunities to grow these relationships are immense, and these meetings were a chance to explore how we can do so.”

Minister McConalogue said the trade mission had opened doors for Irish agri-food produce:

"With a population of over 50 million people there is huge potential for Irish Agri-food exporters to grow their footprint in the sophisticated Korean market. Last year, Irish agri-food exports increased to €75 million in value, so the foundations of strong relationships are already in place. My focus for this mission was to build that market further by engaging this week with Irish exporters and Korean buyers of our agri-food products.

 My other main priority this week was to advance the issue of Irish beef access. On this I was delighted to secure a commitment from the Chairman of the Korean Parliament’s Agriculture Committee that access for beef would be progressed through the required Parliamentary stage by the end of this year which will be a significant milestone in securing access to this market. Korea is the 5th largest importer of beef in the world and is a major target market for our beef sector.”

On the second day of his visit, Minister McConalogue visited the Korean Racing Authority (KRA) to promote Ireland’s world leading bloodstock industry and the sectors suppliers including animal feed companies. The Minister also hosted a number of high value commercial engagements between Irish food companies and potential importers facilitated by Bord Bia.

McConalogue said:

“Over the course of my visit here, I have met with potential and existing customers with import requirements for high quality Irish food, animal feed and agri-tech. Korean businesses are keen to maximise the value of our Free Trade Agreement and Irish businesses are ideally placed to meet these needs. We as a Government will continue to support Irish agri-food businesses to exploit the potential offered by the Korean market and the positive relationships built this week.”

Speaking at the conclusion of the Trade Mission Week, Minister Harris, said:

“This trade mission has been about building upon the existing warm relations between our two countries and exploring the potential for further collaboration between Ireland and Korea in the areas of education, research, and innovation. We have agreed to develop a new Memorandum of Understanding between the two countries on education and research with a focus on mobility and movement of students, academics and researchers between Ireland and Korea.

 Over the past 40 years, 40,000 Koreans have had some level of English Language education in Ireland. This visit has offered us the opportunity to encourage students to choose Ireland as their first destination to learn and improve their English.

 Soon I will be launching my Department’s new international strategy, Global Citizens 2030, which will shape Ireland’s ambitions in the areas of talent and innovation. The continued transformation of our society and economy; ensuring Ireland has access to the right skills, talent and innovation into the future is dependent on building strong relationships with partner countries, like the Republic of Korea.  More than ever, it is also vital that we equip our young people to study, live and work in a global context.”