Celebrating 40 years of Irish-Chinese Diplomatic Relations
30 January 2019, PwC Headquarters North Wall Quay.
Good morning Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am delighted to be here at PwC headquarters to address members of the Ireland – China business group.
This is a special time in Ireland–China relations as we mark the 40th anniversary of our diplomatic links this year.
40 years is a significant milestone and I believe that it is important to reflect on what we have achieved in that time.
I am very happy to say that economic, social and political ties between Ireland and China continue to deepen to both of our benefits, as we continue our engagements, dialogues and visits in both directions.
Our growing trade and investment relations with China are a cornerstone of our overall relationship, and this is what I will focus on in the short time I have to address you today.
Trade between our two countries is now valued at over €15 billion, and there is scope for this to grow even more in the years ahead.
Our agricultural and agri-food co-operation is particularly important - Ireland’s total food exports to China have been phenomenal, reaching €974 million in 2017, primarily in the dairy, pig and seafood sectors.
Last year saw the reintroduction of Irish Beef into the Chinese Market.
Ireland was the first EU country to achieve this access, a mark not only of the high level of trust placed in Irish goods, but also of the high levels of co-operation between Ireland and China.
So far, six beef plants have been approved to export to China, a very positive start.
Chinese companies have huge faith in Ireland and are increasing their investments here.
For example, last year WuXi [Whoosie] Biologics announced that it would invest over €325 million in a manufacturing facility in Dundalk, the company’s first significant investment outside of China. I was delighted to join them at the event with the Taoiseach.
Not only has our trade and economic relationship blossomed over the last 40 years, but our political relationship has become stronger as we work together on a wide range of opportunities.
The benefits of these close ties cannot be overstated.
In November last year, I was delighted to lead a Trade Mission of forty-five Irish companies to China.
During my time in China I visited Hong Kong, Shenzhen and Shanghai.
In Shanghai, I was particularly pleased to be able to attend the inaugural China International Import Expo, the World’s largest trade exhibition.
During this very successful trade mission, I announced deals worth over €60 million for Irish companies.
So, it is very clear that Irish companies are successfully competing in the Chinese market and I hope that we can continue to compete and develop further opportunities.
There was also a high volume of political exchanges between our two countries in 2018, and we were pleased to welcome the Beijing Party Secretary to Dublin.
Building on this engagement, we intend to continue the high level of political visits in 2019.
In fact, the Government announced last week that my colleague Joe McHugh, our Minister for Education and Skills, will be visiting China on Ireland’s behalf for St. Patrick’s Day.
Improvements in connectivity will be key to achieving our overarching goals for Ireland – China relations.
I am very pleased to see the growing number of direct connections from Dublin airport to China since 2018.
The direct flights to Beijing, and recently announced flights to Shenzhen, as well as direct flights from Dublin to Hong Kong, provide Ireland with direct routes to China.
I am certain that these services will foster the growing trade, tourism, education and cultural links between Ireland and China.
In my view, Ireland also has a key role to play in wider EU - China relations.
In fact, Ireland should be considered as China’s ‘gateway to Europe’.
We have an excellent mix of a stable political system, a skilled and talented workforce, a positive track record and a pro-business environment, with guaranteed access to the European single market.
As an English speaking open economy, a Eurozone member and - as recently evidenced - an influential player in the diplomacy of the EU, Ireland is an attractive prospect for Chinese investors looking to access the European market.
Specifically on Brexit, given the ongoing uncertainty in London, one of my key priorities is to minimise the impact our trade and economy.
My Department is working very hard with our Agencies, and the enterprise community, to address the inevitable negative effects of Brexit on Irish exporters, by supporting the growth and resilience of Irish companies.
Part of that growth and resilience will undoubtedly be due to our increased trading links with China - a large and growing market for the high-quality goods and services that Irish companies trade globally.
The Government, through Enterprise Ireland, is working to deliver a stronger, more diversified export sector.
This will make an even greater contribution to economic growth in Ireland.
Under the Government’s Global Ireland Initiative, Enterprise Ireland’s presence will deepen and expand in China.
The additional resources which have been allocated to Enterprise Ireland and its overseas offices, together with the increased resources to the IDA and Science Foundation Ireland, will help Irish businesses to respond to the challenges of Brexit by seizing new opportunities, including in China.
In conclusion, I would like to say that I am very grateful for the opportunity to join you to mark this important milestone when we celebrate 40 years of Ireland/China diplomatic relations.
Special thanks to PwC for facilitating the event.
I have been delighted to talk about the hugely important business and trade links between our two countries, and I look forward to seeing these links grow further, together with our overall diplomatic relations, in the coming years.