The Irish Department of Trade and Employment has “a substantial budget to assist Irish companies wishing to work in and export to Portugal.
The Irish Minister for Trade and Employment admitted this Saturday that “the sky is the limit” when it comes to investing in Portugal, explaining that he came to Lisbon to meet with government officials and business leaders to strengthen ties.
“The sky is the limit, but the main way we invest is by supporting the Irish agencies operating in Portugal and throughout the Iberian Peninsula,” said Neale Richmond in an interview with Lusa news agency on the sidelines of the annual sustainability conference of the Ireland Portugal Business Network Association, held at the Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Lisbon.
He added that his ministry has “a significant budget to support Irish companies that want to work in Portugal and export to Portugal.
Our budget is “tens of millions of euros focused not only on Portugal, but on the whole of the Iberian Peninsula and continental Europe”, which is “a considerable amount, but it is an investment that brings a very serious economic and social return”.
The interests, he said, are mainly in the technology sectors related to solar and wind energy, as well as cork, but also in tourism.
“On the last two nights [Tuesday and Wednesday] we could see the Cristo-Rei [in Almada, Lisbon] lit up in green by Tourism Ireland and this was not only for the fans of Sporting [who beat Arsenal of London at the same time] but to remind all Portuguese people that they are welcome to visit Ireland,” he said.
And not just as tourists, as the aim is also to invest in student exchanges, he said.
“There will be more Irish students coming to study in Portuguese universities and more Portuguese students going to study in Irish universities,” he said, adding that there will also be “more Irish and Portuguese universities working together for European research grants.
Ireland, Neale Richmond emphasized, is looking to Portugal and other countries in continental Europe to grow its economy after “Brexit” changed relations in the European Union.
“After ‘Brexit’ [Britain’s exit from the European bloc], the biggest growth for Ireland is in continental Europe,” he said, stressing that ministerial visits to European countries to strengthen ties have become a priority for St. Patrick’s Day, Ireland’s main holiday.
“Irish companies that have gone international have a very specific interest in the Portuguese market,” he added, arguing that the aim is to enable the exchange of skills, talent and knowledge to grow the Irish and Portuguese economies.
According to the Minister, Ireland exported more than €2 billion worth of goods and services to Portugal last year alone, and the value of imports was only slightly less.