The intention is to do exactly what Deputy Martin advocates, namely put in place a strategic plan approved by the Government. Our new target is to publish it before the summer recess. The idea behind this is to expand our embassy and agency presence around the world according to a plan rather than in the ad hoc way it has happened in more recent years. Draft versions of the document exist but I am not entirely happy with them. I am happy with what has been put forward by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and the different agencies, but the existing draft is a bit weak when it comes to the permanent representation. We will have to increase our presence in Brussels to a considerable extent in the absence of the support and alliance of the UK there. We will be the only common law country in the EU and will have to build up new alliances. As such, we will have to increase the permanent representation. We will also have to look at the UK itself. When it is outside the EU, we will need to find new ways to maintain the bilateral relationship. The possibility exists of opening consulates in regional cities. For example, we may reopen the consulate in Cardiff.
Having read the draft, it occurred to me that it was not strong enough on areas like culture, education and connectivity. Our culture, arts, dance, music and literature are often the window through which a lot of people see Ireland for the first time, in particular in Asia and Africa. It is an area which needs to be strengthened. We can also be more ambitious around international education to encourage more international students to study here. There is also an opportunity to build on the success we have had to date on connectivity. Only a couple of years ago, there were no direct flights to the west coast of the USA whereas we now have flights to Seattle, San Francisco and LA. Direct flights to two cities in China will also commence this summer.
The draft is strong on embassies and agencies but, as already noted, perhaps it is not strong enough in the context of the other aspects relating to expanding our global footprint, namely, culture, education and connectivity. However, I believe we will get there over the next couple of weeks.
A staff census of the different agencies and Departments is done as part of the document. In terms of the models we have been examining, we have been looking at other small countries such as Denmark, which is a similar size to ours but which has many more suits and boots on the ground for what it does through its diplomats and agencies. Interestingly, Denmark is paring that back whereas we are going in the other direction and expanding. We have not planned to share with other countries. I had not even thought of that but it is not part of the plan at present.
It is intended to have more Ireland House establishments but that depends on where they should be. For example, one of the potential locations for a new Ireland House would be Tokyo in Japan. However, that would not make sense in countries such as Germany where the political capital is Berlin but where the economic activity is in Frankfurt. It does not make sense to put an Ireland House in Berlin. Similarly, in Australia, the political capital is Canberra but the business, tourism and other markets are in Sydney and Melbourne. It makes sense in some countries but not in others.
On Brexit, I am satisfied that we have adequate staff in the Departments of the Taoiseach and Foreign Affairs and Trade and across the various agencies. However, we must keep a watching brief on that because, as matters develop, we might need to respond to Brexit in different ways.
The new embassies in Chile, New Zealand, Jordan and Colombia and the consulates in Los Angeles, Vancouver and Mumbai will all open either this year or next year. We are also going to upgrade the existing office in Liberia to embassy status and expanding in Austin from one person to two. All of this is under way. In Chile, an ambassador-designate has already been appointed.
Doubling our global footprint means doubling our impact. It is done through a combination of measures and does not mean necessarily doubling offices, budgets and staff. It means doubling our impact by a combination of increases in staff, budgets and offices and things such as education and culture.
The Government supports the Iran nuclear agreement. We believe it has helped to stabilise that region and has slowed down, if not stopped, Iran's nuclear enrichment programme. We are aligned with our EU allies, France, Germany and the United Kingdom, in their support for the agreement. The Trump Administration has made a policy mistake in resiling from the agreement. I expect we will discuss it next week in Bulgaria at the informal meeting of EU Heads of State and Government. The Tehran embassy is under consideration again. We had an embassy there for a long time but it was one of the embassies shut during the financial crisis. As it is an expanding economy with a big population and it is an expanding regional power it is definitely on the list for consideration for an embassy in the future.