Ambassador to woo investors from China

Updated: 2012-02-20 08:06

By Zhao Shengnan (China Daily)

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BEIJING - Ireland would like to build on its cooperation with China, the heart of its Asian strategy, and see closer strategic relations between the European Union and China, said Irish Ambassador to China Declan Kelleher before Vice-President Xi Jinping's visit to Ireland.

In trade, politics, tourism, education, agriculture and culture, the two nations have seen strong progress.

Now, "Xi's visit is going to move our already very good relationship to an even higher level to benefit mutual cooperation", Kelleher said.

China's direct investment in Ireland, which is less than Irish investments in China, must be expanded in the future, said Kelleher.

"The number of Irish companies with a permanent presence in China is now up 300 percent over the past five years," he said. "We are looking forward to seeing more Chinese investment coming to Ireland."

"Ireland and China have faced similar challenges in moving from an underdeveloped agrarian economy to a modern economy, which enables people to improve their standard of living," said Kelleher, adding that Ireland's low corporate tax rate, high rate of return for foreign investors and the government's emphasis on facilitating business would greatly benefit Chinese investors.

Speaking of China's role in the resolution of the EU sovereign debt crisis, Kelleher agreed with Premier Wen Jiabao's view that the health of the EU is very important to China, its big trade partner, but "the EU must put its house in order and must make the necessary corrections".

"This is happening," he said. "It's not just the sovereign debt issue. It's also making the EU more efficient, promoting jobs and growth, and benefiting from the single market."

As one of the countries first hit by the European debt crisis, Ireland has come through the challenges and sustained moderate economic growth recently. The Irish Times quoted Enterprise Ireland, a state agency that promotes Irish exports, as saying that its 2011 export figures would "exceed the pre-recession record levels of 2008".

"Through addressing the main two problems we faced, a real estate bubble and the banking system, the fundamental strengths of our economy mean we are now ahead of target in terms of our production, exports and competitiveness," Kelleher said.

"But we have a strong interest in the EU working as well as possible and the eurozone working as well as possible," he said. "So we want to see the EU cooperate with China more and more closely."

"Ireland strongly supports the development of closer strategic relations between the EU and China, because we think it's a very important relationship. That is our clear policy."