Ireland eyes stronger economic ties with China

Updated: 2011-10-06 09:00


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DUBLIN - Ireland's Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Eamon Gilmore has called for closer economic and trade relations with China in the post-crisis era.

Gilmore said the developing relationship between the two countries has been already "strong" with Ireland's bilateral trade with China reached 4.2 billion euros ($6.03 billion) last year. China is currently Ireland's largest trading partner in Asia, and eighth largest partner globally.

However, the Irish deputy prime minister said he would encourage further mutually beneficial cooperation, especially investment from China to Ireland, which is still struggling economically.

"China is an important market for Ireland, a growing population, growing consumer demand. We see huge opportunities to export into China, not just goods but also services like education and medical and other services," said Gilmore.

"We also see there is a big potential for China to invest in Ireland and indeed to see Ireland as a location in Europe for Chinese investment and we will be encouraging increasingly that degree of two-way economic traffic, Irish exports and investment in China and in turn Chinese investment in Ireland as a gateway to Europe," he said.

Since Ireland received a huge bailout package from the European Union (EU) and International Monetary Fund (IMF) last year, the government have been focusing on increasing exports, with 80 percent of all goods produced in the country being exported.

As China's economy continues to grow, the Irish government has recognized the benefits of increased bilateral trade and has said on several occasions Ireland would welcome Chinese firms who require an European base.

Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny, who has been leading the new government for the past six months, is expected to lead a trade delegation to China before the end of this year in order to drum up interest from Chinese investment.

Gilmore said he expects the prime minister will hold discussions with Chinese leadership about potential for further trade between the two countries, which, he said, is an issue the government "gives very high priority to."

"Exchange of delegations at a high level, high-level governmental delegations between the two countries is very important," he stressed.

Gilmore said the two countries could also work together to confront the global concerns like "the issues of sustainable development, the need for peace and security, the way in which we can both contribute and the great challenges and difficulties that face the world today."

Enda Kenny's visit to China has not been finalized. According to the deputy prime minister, the visit will "hopefully" take place by the end of this year.