independent

Wednesday 16 April 2014

Taoiseach will visit China next month to exploit jobs potential

Chinese Vice-President Xi Jinping sits with Taoiseach Enda Kenny during the Ireland-China Investment Forum in Kilmainham, Dublin, yesterday

TAOISEACH Enda Kenny will visit China next month as part of a drive to exploit the jobs potential generated by the visit of the country's vice-president.

Taoiseach will visit China next month to exploit jobs potential

The only visit by Vice-President Xi Jinping to an EU country has created a "tremendous profile" for Irish companies seeking to trade with China, according Enterprise Ireland.

Mr Kenny is expected to travel to China next month after his St Patrick's Day visit to Washington.

The focus will be on recruiting as many Irish companies as possible to take advantage of the increased access to the Chinese market following the visit of the man expected to be appointed president of China next year.

Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney said the €215m in food exports to China was just "the tip of the iceberg" in terms of what was possible.

Mr Kenny said yesterday China was "one of our top priorities for business development".

However, Mr Kenny will not be able to fly to China with confirmation of the go-ahead for the " Shanghai on the Shannon" project. The planned international trading hub east of Athlone to showcase Chinese goods has been approved by Westmeath County Council, but has been appealed to An Bord Pleanala. A decision is not expected until May.

Mr Xi delivered a clear pro-trade message yesterday before he flew on to Turkey, saying that exports were an engine for Ireland's economic growth.

Tourism Minister Leo Varadkar said the extensive coverage in the Chinese media of the visit had raised our profile as a destination for Chinese tourists.

Defensive

But the Government was put on the defensive over claims it "looked the other way" on China's human rights record in a bid to boost vital trade exports. Mr Coveney insisted that human rights had been raised while he sat in on the hour-long meeting between Mr Kenny and Mr Xi on Sunday.

"The Taoiseach, as he said he would, did raise the issue of human rights and he got a very pro-active response from the vice-president who was clearly expecting the question.

"He said China does have issues that it needs to look at in terms of human rights as do many other countries. He said he was perfectly open to dialogue with other countries and with the EU," he added.

Mr Xi also visited President Michael D Higgins in Aras an Uachtarain yesterday. He told him he had been impressed by the "hard working and smart people of Ireland".

Brendan Keenan

Irish Independent

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