Ireland strengthens ties with China as two countries sign diplomatic visa waiver agreement
IRELAND has strengthened ties with China after the two countries signed a diplomatic visa waiver agreement.
The agreement will means holders of diplomatic passports of both countries will be exempt from visa requirements for visits of up to 90 days to the other country. Official passport holders who travel in the company of a Minister on official visits of this short term duration will also be visa-exempt.
It was signed in Mayo this evening by Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Charlie Flanagan, and Minister for Foreign Affairs of the People’s Republic of China, Wang Yi.
The significant agreement was witnessed by Taoiseach Enda Kenny and the Chinese Premier Li Keqiang, who was visiting the West of Ireland accompanied by a number of Chinese Government Ministers.
Mr Kenny and Premier Li, along with their Ministers, held a bilateral meeting in Ashford Castle yesterday evening.
Welcoming the agreement, Minister Flanagan said the agreement was a sign of the growing friendship between the two countries and the intensified trade and investment relationship.
“As I know from my own visit to China last December, visits at Ministerial and senior official level to and from China are particularly important to developing the official and legal frameworks within which our bilateral relationship can continue to flourish. This agreement will facilitate visits and intensified cooperation on both sides,” he said.
“I was pleased to have the opportunity to again have useful discussions with Foreign Minister Wang Yi and to build on our engagement in Beijing late last year. China is an important trading partner for Ireland with total trade between our two countries worth over €8 bn in 2013 and continuing to expand. Last year China overtook the US as the second biggest destination for Irish food exports after the EU, with agri food exports to China valued at €620 million,” he added.
He said the latest waiver was complementary to the British Irish Visa Scheme which was rolled out to China last autumn. It allows Chinese passport holders to travel to both Ireland and the UK on a single valid visitor visa issued by either Ireland or the UK.
“This should lead to a steady increase in Chinese tourism to Ireland,” he added.
Recently, Ireland became the first EU country to have the Chinese ban on beef imports lifted; paving the way for Irish beef exports to a rapidly growing Chinese market.