Gilmore due in China as Irish exports hit €354m
TANAISTE and Foreign Affairs Minister Eamon Gilmore arrives in China today for the most senior Irish government visit to the sprawling Asian country since Taoiseach Enda Kenny's trip early last year.
The four-day trip - shortened due to the convening of the Council of State of which Mr Gilmore is a member - will include meetings with political and business chiefs in both Beijing and Shanghai.
Irish officials have stressed the importance of the trip, coming 18 months after now Chinese President Xi Jinping visited Ireland.
With a population of about 1.3bn people, China is the world's second largest economy after the United States and has increasingly become an important and influential player in the global economy.
But although the country's growth rate is in excess of 7pc - significantly higher than anything experienced in Europe - the pace of expansion has slowed considerably, stoking fears for the future.
Mr Gilmore will attend a reception in the Irish embassy this evening, after holding a meeting with the chief executives of Dublin Airport Authority (DAA) and Beijing Capital International Airport.
A twinning agreement will be signed between the two airports establishing a formal relationship with the potential to allow the DAA to expand its duty free offering to Chinese airports. It is also hoped that it will lead to further talks in improving the air link between the two countries.
Events will also be held focusing on Irish seafood access to China, and Tourism Ireland, as well as a business breakfast in Shanghai with Irish community group representatives and clients of Bord Bia, Enterprise Ireland and the IDA.
Exports by Irish-owned companies to greater China reached €354m last year - up more than 18pc on the previous year.
Enterprise Ireland said there are 184 Irish owned companies exporting to China with approximately 100 having some form of presence in the market, ranging from a single person sales office to manufacturing operations with thousands of employees.