Chinese vice premier Ma Kai looks to strengthen ‘mutual investment’ between Ireland and China
TAOISEACH Enda Kenny discussed the importance of multi-billion trade links as he welcomed China's Vice Premier Ma Kai to Government Buildings.
The visit follows the Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore's trip to China in August, with trade between the two countries now amounting to €8bn.
Mr Kenny discussed establishing stronger trade links with the major economic power on the world market on the final day of their three-day visit to Ireland.
Mr Ma, who is responsible for economic police and oversees the People's Bank of China, is the most senior Chinese leader to visit Ireland since President Xi Jinping, who visited Ireland as Vice-President in February 2012.
Mr Ma told Mr Kenny he would like to pass on the best wishes of President Xi Jinping.
"My current visit has been for a short time and I have been deeply impressed by the warm hospitality, friendship of the Irish people towards the Chinese people," he said. "I'm coming to Ireland to deepen our friendship and to promote the practical co-operation."
He's already met with Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore who travelled to Beijing and Shanghai on a trade mission in August.
Mr Ma said his talks with the Tanaiste had been "fruitful" on deepening business ties. "We agreed that we should further deepen our co-operation in agriculture," he told Mr Kenny, in addition to co-operation in technology and food safety systems.
"We should also work together to explore ways to enhance our cooperation in bio pharmaceutical field and work together to maintain these momentum in mutual investment," he said.
It is the Vice Premier's first visit to China, and he flew to Ireland after co-hosting a China-EU economic and trade meeting in Brussels.
Exports from Ireland to China last year amounted to €2.16bn, with services worth almost €2.4bn.
Among the key exports are pharmaceuticals, organic chemicals and electrical machinery, with a massive 93pc increase from 2010 to 2012 in exports of agriculture and food products.
The Chinese delegation will also be visiting one of the country's major fruit producers Keelings Food Central in Dublin.
With Ireland's agri-businesses high on the agenda, the Chinese delegation was taken on a whirlwind tour of one of Ireland's major fruit producers and suppliers, Keelings, in north county Dublin.
In the middle of the mammoth strawberry glasshouses, where 520,000 plants were dangling from the ceiling, Caroline Keeling, chief executive of Keelings, explained to the Chinese Vice Premier that traceability was key to their software system, Keelings Solutions.
She explained they could trace back their strawberries to each row of the glasshouses, and the person who picked them.
The company, which established the software division in 2011 with six employees, hopes to employ an additional 60 people over the next two-years with the expansion of it's hi-tech software.
Already the firm has sold the tool which helps a firm deal with fruit and vegetable distribution and manage stock to companies in China.
But Ms Keeling said the "Chinese market has huge potential" for growth.
The delegation was returning to China this afternoon after the three-day visit to Ireland.
By Louise Hogan