Taoiseach Enda Kenny is to arrive in Saudi Arabia tonight ahead of a trade mission and a series of diplomatic engagements in the Gulf region.
Mr Kenny and Minister for Enterprise, Jobs and Innovation Richard Bruton are joining more than 80 companies on a five-day Enterprise Ireland mission aimed at creating deeper economic links between Ireland and the region.
The visit will see the Taoiseach visit the Saudi Arabian capital Riyadh as well as Doha in Qatar, Abu Dhabi and Dubai. The four economies have a combined annual GDP of some €1.2 trillion.
The Gulf region will continue to see significant investment in the coming years ahead of big ticket events such as the World Cup in Qatar in 2022 and the World Expo in Dubai in 2020.
There is also significant construction work being carried out in the region, a growing agricultural industry and likely opportunities in areas such as healthcare, software and ICT which Irish firms and officials hope can lead to investment, trade and jobs.
Mr Kenny is to meet dignitaries such as Saudi Arabia's deputy prime minister Crown Prince Salman, Qatari prime minister Abdullah bin Nasser bin Khalifa al Thani, and the emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani.
He will also meet Abu Dhabi’s minister for foreign affairs Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed al Nayhan, and UAE prime minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum in Dubai.
“This visit will strengthen our economic, political and cultural ties with these key priority markets for Ireland as well as providing an opportunity to explore new commercial opportunities and build on the strong educational links that exist between Ireland and the Gulf States,” the Taoiseach said in a statement.
Irish companies with backgrounds in areas such as agriculture, energy, construction and audio visuals products are among those taking part in the mission.
Goods worth some €626 million were exported from Ireland to Saudi Arabia in 2012 with chemicals, food and livestock, and machinery the main areas of trade, according to Central Statistics Office figures.
The United Arab Emirates (which includes Dubai and Abi Dhabi) purchased Irish goods worth €373 million in 2012 and exports worth more than €58 million were dispatched to Qatar.
Mr Bruton said he hoped the diplomatic and trade visit could deliver “tangible results for the Irish economy”.
“The Gulf offers huge opportunities for Irish business and this mission of 87 companies led by the Taoiseach demonstrates our commitment to delivering on that,” he said.
Mr Kenny is also due to visit the historic Al Masmak Fort in Riyadh and Dubai's Burj Khalifa, the tallest manmade structure in the world at 829.8 metres, during the missions which continues until Thursday.