Business World

Saturday 17 February 2018

Gilmore meets Libyan rebels for trade deals

Firms keen to do business in war-torn country

Eamon Gilmore: held talks with the Libya National Transitional Council. Photo: Damien Eagers
Eamon Gilmore: held talks with the Libya National Transitional Council. Photo: Damien Eagers

John Reynolds

Trade Minister Eamon Gilmore has held talks with Libya's National Transition Council (NTC) about opening up the battle-scarred north African state to Irish business.

Over the past fortnight, Mr Gilmore has met senior NTC figures in Dublin and then again at a UN meeting in New York, with the aim of re-establishing Libya-Ireland trade relations once new NTC staff are installed in key posts.

A Libyan gold rush fuelled by hundreds of billions of dollars in reconstruction funds has seen a push by Irish businesses in the oil, engineering, project planning and education services sectors to rebuild trade with the war-torn country as the conflict against Gaddafi's forces winds down.

Dublin-based Mercury Engineering, Sligo-based Jennings and O'Donovan Consulting Engineers, the Irish Dairy Board and Brian O'Cathain's Petroceltic are all interested in pursuing business opportunities there.

Following the release of billions of dollars of Libyan assets that had been frozen in various foreign banks because of UN sanctions, the World Bank plans to help restore water, health and banking in the country.

Irish firms are now competing for reconstruction contracts with British and French companies seeking to cash in on the financial and military backing their countries provided to rebel forces in their battle against Gaddafi's forces.

A spokesman for Mercury Engineering, which had oil and gas engineers stationed in Benghazi before the war broke out, said: "Our general manager for Libya has revisited the country, but it's too early to say when we will restart work on the projects we were working on previously."

Conor McCarthy, co-founder of Jennings O'Donovan said: "We understand that the NTC is seeking to upgrade the water and waste-water infrastructure in Libya, an area in which we specialise, and we are now pursuing a project there."

This week, the Irish Dairy Board opened an office and packing plant in neighbouring Algeria, with the aim of increasing sales of milk powder and dairy produce to the 200 million customers in north Africa.

While 11 Irish firms including Siac Butlers Steel, Largo Foods, several project management and engineering firms and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt visited Libya last May with the aim of building trade relations, Libya sold us over €200m worth of oil -- 23 per cent of our crude oil imports last year, but Irish exports to Libya were worth just €38.8m.

Sunday Indo Business

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