Ireland’s growing and developing trade, education and cultural relationship with China was reinforced in March with the visit of the Minister of State for the OPW and Flood Relief, Mr Seán Canney to the East Asian country.
Minister Canney’s nine-day, six-city programme saw the Minister engage very successfully across a range of political, business, cultural and Irish community sectors. The six cities visited were Beijing, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Nanjing and Houzhou.
The visit was utilised extensively by Minister Canney to advance Ireland’s political, trade, investment, tourism and cultural priorities in China and to impart the Government’s strategic messages as well as accessing key political and business contacts in leading markets.
During Minister Canney’s trip, there was a substantive bi-lateral meeting at the Embassy in Beijing with China’s Vice-Minister for Agriculture where Ireland received very positive signals on the prospect for market access for Irish beef. On foot of this, China’s Minister for Quarantine & Food Safety, Mr. Zhi Shuping, recently visited Ireland to sign with Agriculture Minister, Michael Creed, the necessary bi-lateral Protocol setting out the procedures to restart the beef export trade from Ireland to China which would make Ireland the first EU country to successfully restart beef exports.
The securing membership of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) was a priority for Ireland and officials from the Department of Finance and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade had been working closely and successfully with officials in the Chinese Ministry of Finance and at the AIIB itself to secure membership. Established just over two years ago, AIIB is a multilateral financial institution founded to bring countries together to finance energy, transport and other infrastructure projects in Asia.
Minister Canney’s visit also helped raise Ireland’s profile as an education partner with successful visits to the prestigious Beijing Foreign Studies University, locale of an Irish Studies Centre, as well as to meetings with the leaderships of Nanjing University of Technology and Nanjing Normal University. Minister Canney also had important business related engagements in Macau and a food promotion event in Shanghai.
Last October, Ireland was the country of honour at the China National Higher Education Expo. For the third successive year, our Minister for Education and Skills led a major Irish delegation to China. Such visits have encouraged greater numbers of Chinese and Irish students to study in our respective countries.
Also very much of part of the fostering of relations between both countries is the intended establishment of a direct air service from Ireland to China. Ireland and China have formally committed to seeking to establish direct air services between the two countries which would further assist in the promotion of tourism, education and cultural links.
Minister Canney also had a meeting with his counterpart, the Vice-Minister at China’s Ministry of Water Resources with responsibility for Flood (and drought) Relief. This meeting built on existing co-operation and on a 2015 Memorandum of Understanding between Ireland and China on Water Resource Management. Minister Canney also discussed co-operation with China in the context of the China Europe Water Platform (CEWP – which will meet next in September 2017 in Helsinki).