Visa waiver deal and agricultural co-operation strengthen Chinese ties
Ireland has strengthened ties with China after the two countries signed a diplomatic visa waiver agreement and agreed on greater agricultural co-operation.
The agreements were signed in Mayo yesterday following bilateral talks involving Taoiseach Enda Kenny, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang and several ministers from both governments at Ashford Castle.
Premier Li, the second-in-command in China, is on a two-day trip to Ireland, intended to deepen relations between the two countries.
The visit follows the lifting of the ban on Irish beef exports in February, paving the way for exporting Irish produce to a rapidly growing Chinese market.
Mr Kenny said he hoped Irish beef could be on sale in China by the end of the year.
The visa agreement 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 travelling in the company of a minister on official visits of short-term duration will also be visa-exempt.
Welcoming the move, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Charlie Flanagan said it was a sign of the growing friendship between the countries and would facilitate visits and intensify co-operation on both sides.
The second agreement for greater agricultural co-operation will see the two countries discuss a range of agri-food and market access issues. Irish agri-food exports to China increased to €620m last year, making it Ireland's second most important market after the EU.
Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney said discussions were continuing on the technical steps to ensure trade begins as soon as possible. Talks are also continuing on access for sheep meat and poultry.
Premier Li said he was happy with the improved links between the two countries, adding he viewed Ireland as a "gateway" to Europe and the Western economy.