Ireland Backs Kingdom’s Bid To Join WTO

Ireland, the current holder of the European Union’s rotating presidency, fully supports the Kingdom’s bid to join the WTO and is committed to a comprehensive peace in the Middle East, according to Frank Fahey, Ireland’s minister of labor, trade and enterprise, who is on a short visit to the Kingdom.

The Irish presidency also backs any reform program to be launched by Arab states — “by themselves,” he said. Reform cannot be imposed “on any country,” Fahey said when asked about the US democracy initiative for the Middle East. Reforms must come “from within,” he said.

Fahey, who is here to represent his government on the occasion of the Irish National Day, St. Patrick’s Day, as part of Dublin’s plan to promote Ireland abroad, also sought to develop relations with the Kingdom in the fields of education, IT and labor. Ireland is keen to strengthen relations with Gulf states, the minister said.

Asked about the continuing Saudi ban on the Irish beef and beef products, Fahey said he had met with officials from the Ministry of Commerce and Industry and the two sides had reviewed the ban. Ireland, which has lost millions of euros in beef exports because of the ban, says it has taken stringent measures to ensure that beef exports are free of disease.

Ireland wants the ban removed, said Fahey, pointing out that Saudi officials were actively looking into lifting it. “Recently a group of veterinary and health officials from Saudi Arabia visited Ireland to take stock of the situation and to acquaint themselves with the measures taken by the meat industry to protect consumers,” he said.

Ireland had undertaken an ambitious surveillance program to check mad cow disease, he said. Prior to being banned, beef was one of the main Irish exports to the Kingdom, he said.

Despite the ban, Saudi Arabia still continued to be a most valued trading partner, the minister said. The Kingdom accounted for almost 60 percent of Ireland’s trade in the region. “We are excited about the substantial trade opportunities that can be developed and strengthened between Ireland and the Gulf region,” he said.

On cooperation on education, Fahey said that Ireland had much to offer. “We are going to promote Irish colleges and Ireland’s English-language teaching centers in Saudi Arabia,” he said, announcing that an Irish education delegation will visit the Kingdom in May.

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