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MoS McEntee T.D., begins a two day visit to Belgium

The Minister of State for European Affairs, Helen McEntee T.D., begins a two day bilateral visit to Belgium later today.

Belgium is a key part of the supply chain for Irish exporters and (in 2016) the country was Ireland's second largest destination for exports, second only to the USA and ahead of the UK.

Trade will feature prominently in a bilateral meeting with the Deputy Prime Minister, Kris Peeter, who has special responsibility for the economy and foreign trade. The future of the trading relationship will also be high on the agenda during a visit to the Port of Antwerp where the Minister will have lunch with the Governor of Antwerp, Cathy Berx, and speak at a Brexit seminar where the respective business communities will have peer-to-peer exchanges on issues of common interest. On her return to Brussels the Minister will hold talks with the Minister-President of Flanders, Geert Bourgeois.

During the visit, Minister McEntee will address the Irish Universities' Alumni Association on the importance of investment in education, research and innovation in the future of Europe debate and she will attend a meeting of the Brussels-based Women's Ambassadors Network.

Speaking about the visit Minister McEntee said:

"It is important that Ireland continues to engage with our EU colleagues and build positive relations. I am also looking forward to visiting Antwerp Port that is so crucial for our exporters. The bi-lateral visit will be a chance to discuss important trade opportunities with one of our largest export destinations.

Minister McEntee will also attend the General Affairs Council (Article 50) meeting with Tánaiste Simon Coveney T.D., where Member States will get an update from the EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier ahead of the draft withdrawal agreement being published on Wednesday.