Muscat: Northern Ireland is seeking to increase the annual volume of exports to Oman by 20 per cent, according to a senior member of a trade delegation that recently visited Muscat.
"My target for this market is to increase exports by 20 per cent per annum," said Barry Clarke, regional director at Invest Northern Ireland (Invest NI), a regional business development agency.
"This is our target for all the markets in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). But I cannot do that on my own. My job is to facilitate that process. So I will bring companies to Oman and will keep doing that," Clarke, who is in charge of India, Middle East and Africa Affairs, told the Times of Oman.
Clarke brought 11 companies to the Sultanate this time and the delegation stayed in Muscat from May 25 to 27.
Representatives of the firms later left for Qatar, the UAE, and Kurdistan.
The official said that the purpose of the visit was to foster trade ties between Northern Ireland and Oman, adding that Northern Ireland's annual exports to Oman currently stand at $25 million.
"Some of these companies are already represented in Oman, and some are looking for new representation," said the regional director at NI, which is part of the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment and provides strong government support for business by delivering the government's economic development strategies.
"We are looking for new opportunities here. Oman is growing as a market. A lot of these companies are also looking for ways to enter the GCC markets, but we felt it was important that we start in Oman this time."
Clarke said that NI is famous for exporting textile and innovative products and services, adding that there is great investment potential in Oman in various sectors, including healthcare, tourism, food, engineering and software.
According to him, aerospace is another potential area as Northern Ireland is the oldest aerospace region in the world. "The first aviation company set up in the world started in Belfast in Northern Ireland, which is Bombardier. So there is opportunity for Bombardier to sell aircraft in this market, to Oman Air as they are changing and growing."
He also said that companies from North Ireland can invest in the growing tourism sector in the Sultanate. From the tourism perspective, there are many attractions in Oman, particularly given the fact that it has retained its culture while modernising, he noted.
The NI official added that the companies visiting Muscat were scheduled to hold talks with the public sector as well as the private sector. "These companies are interested in what is happening, particularly in public infrastructure," he said.
He added that there are many opportunities for Omani investors in Northern Ireland, especially in Belfast, which is a fast emerging market. "All our companies are looking at leaving a legacy behind," Clarke concluded.
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