Last weekend’s visit of Vice President of the People’s Republic of China, Xi Jinping to Ireland and County Clare could be a hugely significant one for future economic co-operation The challenge now is to build on the momentum created by the visit, and County Clare should be looking to capitalise on the exposure received in Chinese and world media.
Let’s not underestimate the importance of the visit which took place last week. Ireland was the only European country Mr Xi Jinping visited. I think it is hugely significant that he landed in Ireland at Shannon Airport, further underlining the importance of our Airport here in Clare in terms of connectivity to the wider world.
I was honoured to attend a reception at Bunratty last weekend for the Vice President. The best of County Clare was on show to the visiting delegation, including Bunratty, the Cliffs of Moher and the hugely successful visit to James Lynch’s farm.
The argi-food business is a big success story in Ireland at present with exports up by almost €1 billion last year and most in the sector expecting similar increases this year. Currently only 2% of our exports go to China. There is massive potential there, particularly in the years ahead following the withdrawal of milk quotas. The discussions held over recent days will also hopefully begin the process also of trying to get Irish beef back into Chinese markets and I understand work will continue in this regard.
Over the coming weeks and months, An Taoiseach Enda Kenny will travel to the US and to China actively seeking investment and attempting to help create jobs in Ireland. As a government that remains our priority and the significant announcement of jobs in Paypal demonstrate that.
Here in County Clare we need to capitalise on this visit. I would encourage all agencies locally to use the significant media focus that Clare received to launch a marketing drive in China aimed at increasing visitors from that country. Everything that was so good about County Clare was on show last week – our people, the warmth of our welcome and the wonderful tourist sites we have.
I want to congratulate all those who worked to make the visit such as resounding success, and I look forward with confidence to the enhancement of Irish-Chinese relations as a result.