THE backers of a major Europe-China trading hub planned for a massive site in the midlands will meet with potential investors in China tomorrow.
The Athlone Business Park company is hosting an international investment forum in Shanghai and says both private and Chinese government-backed firms will attend.
The forum is aimed at securing the €200m needed to build the first phase of the ambitious project, planned on a 127-hectare site in Athlone, Co Westmeath.
The Department of Foreign Affairs said the Irish ambassador to China, Declan Kelleher, would address the forum.
Planning permission for the trading hub was granted by An Bord Pleanala in May last year, and includes plans for 12 exhibition halls totalling more than 100,000 square metres. They would be used by Chinese companies hoping to sell electronics, machinery, medical devices and other products to markets in the EU, US, north Africa and the Middle East.
Exports from China to the EU are worth almost €250bn a year, and two 'mega' exhibition halls of more than 30,000 square metres each are included in the plans.
Athlone Business Park chief executive John Tiernan told the Irish Independent the company had been working with financial advisers Deloitte since July on the project, and would meet potential investors tomorrow in Shanghai.
"Tapping in to large-scale international funds requires significant efforts and due diligence. Understandably, the current European and world market instability has not helped. That said, however, Ireland's international image, re- established competitiveness and attractiveness for investment are being well recognised."
A "considerable" number of companies were lined up to attend, and interest has been "very positive".
The hub promises to employ 1,500 people after an initial boost of 1,200 construction jobs. Some 70pc of the full-time jobs will be for local people or EU nationals.