The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade performs a wide range of functions in pursuit of Ireland’s foreign policy interests. These include advancing reconciliation and cooperation on the island of Ireland; representing and advancing government policies with other states and in international organisations, in particular the EU and the UN; economic, trade and cultural promotion; frontline consular and passport services to Irish citizens overseas; engaging with Irish communities; and programme management, particularly in Irish Aid priority countries. Trade promotion and economic messaging are key elements in all visits abroad undertaken by Government Ministers. Every effort is made to ensure that, as far as is practicable, appropriate opportunities are taken for a substantive economic and promotional dimension to all official visits.
Delivering an intensive programme of Ministerial-led trade missions is a key commitment in the Government’s Action Plan for Jobs in 2013. The number of Ministerial-led Enterprise Ireland trade missions conducted with the active support of the Embassy network has more than doubled over the past three years, up from eight in 2011 to eighteen this year. During my recent visit to Paris - in addition to formal meetings with President Hollande, Prime Minister Ayrault and Foreign Minister Fabius and other engagements - I undertook seven trade promotion activities in conjunction with the State agencies, starting with an IDA Ireland breakfast event with 50 existing and potential investors in Ireland. I led a visit of 12 Enterprise Ireland client companies to the Beauvais plant of AGCO, the multinational owner of Massey-Ferguson and France’s top exporter of agricultural machinery, to develop opportunities for Irish engineering companies to supply components. In November I will travel to London to speak at an Enterprise Ireland Financial Services networking event. It is also possible that I may undertake other official travel in 2014, in which case I will of course avail of all suitable opportunities to promote trade, tourism and investment.
My colleague Joe Costello T.D, Minister of State for Trade and Development, will lead an Enterprise Ireland trade mission to Qatar and Oman from 31 May to 4 June. The mission will focus on supporting Irish companies in the construction and engineering sectors as well as exploring opportunities for Irish education institutions. From 6 to 8 October Minister of State Costello will lead an Enterprise Ireland exploratory trade visit to Mexico to support Irish companies in exploring business opportunities there. This will reinforce Ireland’s interest in developing and expanding political and trade relations with Mexico and build on the visit of An tUachtarán there in 2013. In mid-October, Minister Costello will lead an Enterprise Ireland trade mission to West Africa which will focus on mining, oil and gas opportunities for Irish companies and in late-November he will lead another EI trade mission to Australia, focusing on the construction and engineering sectors.
My colleague, Paschal Donohoe T.D., Minister of State for European Affairs, has, since taking office almost ten months ago, undertaken sixteen bilateral visits across Europe, including visits to Albania, Bosnia, Germany and Poland this year. This is in addition to Minister Donohoe's engagements at EU level, which includes representing Ireland at the General Affairs Council, at Informal Ministerial meetings, European Parliament Plenary sessions, other high-level EU engagements as they arise and accompanying the Taoiseach to the European Council. In both his bilateral and EU engagements, the Government's priorities of promoting Ireland and creating the conditions, as well as opportunities, for stability, jobs and growth are always to the fore. It is envisaged that Minister Donohoe will continue to undertake an extensive programme of bilateral visits for the remainder of the year and planning is currently underway, including for a trip to Belgrade in June to further bilateral economic and political relations as well as to demonstrate Ireland's support for Serbia's EU accession negotiations.
Other official visits abroad will include the following: I will travel to New York in late September 2014 to participate in the General Assembly of the United Nations and to address to that body on Irish foreign policy priorities. There I will meet with Foreign Ministers and UN leaders. Such meetings will provide a crucial opportunity to discuss a range of international issues, as well as bilateral issues and Ireland’s candidature for election to a non-permanent seat on the UN Security Council in 2020. Naturally, given the importance of our economic relationship with the United States I will, as on previous visits, prioritise opportunities to advance our economic interests and will work closely with the IDA, Enterprise Ireland and Tourism Ireland on an appropriate economic promotion programme. My colleague, Minister of State Costello, will attend a Global Summit in London on 12 June aimed at addressing the issue of sexual violence in conflict. He will also attend the Third Decennial Conference of Small Island Developing States in Apia, Samoa, from 1 to 4 September. The Conference will bring together Heads of Government and their representatives from 38 small developing island UN member states. The problems which many such states face due to the effects of climate change and rising sea levels can increase state fragility and, in some cases, the risk of conflict, and therefore their issues are of particular interest to Ireland in terms of our development policy, One World, One Future. He may also attend the Global Partnership on Education Replenishment meeting in Brussels on 25 and 26 June and the UN General Assembly in September. In early October, Minister of State Costello is expected to travel to Paris for the OECD Development Assistance Committee’s review of Ireland’s aid programme. I anticipate that I will attend EU Foreign Affairs Council meetings in Luxembourg, in June and October, and in Brussels in July, November and December. I also expect to attend the Informal Meeting of EU Foreign Ministers meeting in Rome in August. My colleagues will be similarly engaged on EU matters and expect to attend meetings as follows:
Minister of State Donohoe 12/13 May - Brussels - European General Affairs Council
12 May - Foreign Affairs Council
29/30 May - Athens - Informal General Affairs Council
24 June – Luxembourg-General Affairs Council
26/27 June –Brussels - European Council
July – Brussels-European Parliament Plenary Session
August – Milan - Informal Meeting of European Affairs Ministers
October –Luxembourg- General Affairs Council
November – Brussels - General Affairs Council
December – Brussels - General Affairs Council
Minister of State Costello 19 May - Brussels - Foreign Affairs Committee, Development; 15 July - Florence - Informal Meeting of EU Development Ministers; 12 December - Brussels - Foreign Affairs Committee, Development.