Dáil Éireann - Volume 303 - 15 February, 1978

Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - People's Republic of China.

10. Mr. O'Keeffe asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if any progress has been made in establishing diplomatic relations with the People's Republic of China; if he is aware that the British Government is at present arranging expansion of British exports to that country; and if any examination is under way to assess the likelihood of commencing Irish exports to that country.

Mr. O'Kennedy: The question of opening diplomatic relations with states with which we do not at present have formal relations is kept under continuous review in the light of our international interests and the availability of the necessary resources. As the opening of diplomatic relations is a matter for negotiation with, and requires the prior agreement of, the state concerned, [1324] it would be contrary to diplomatic practice for me to give the Deputy specific details with regard to the present status of our discussions with any particular country. I can say, however, that the question of diplomatic relations with China is under active consideration at present.

As regards British exports to China, I am aware that there have been recent reports in the media to the effect that the British authorities are currently reassessing the possibilities which exist for increased trade with that country.

I am advised by my colleague, the Minister for Industry, Commerce and Energy, that Córas Tráchtála have over the past number of years been continuously monitoring the potential for the development of Irish exports to China and they see prospects for exports of certain products. Representatives of Córas Tráchtála have visited Peking and have had discussions with the China Council for the Promotion of International Trade (CCPIT) in the course of which they made the council aware of the range of goods available for export from Ireland. In addition, the question of Ireland's possible participation in a proposed EEC exhibition to be held in Peking later this year is at present under discussion with the European Commission.

It is to be hoped that the recently initialled trade agreement between China and the EEC will lead to increased Community exports (including Irish exports) to that country.

Mr. M. O'Leary: In our attempts to expand trade with East European countries our experience would suggest that trade marches almost at the same level as the advance of diplomatic relations with these countries. Diplomatic relations become essential if one's trade with such countries is to be expanded. Recently there was a report in The Financial Times that the Chinese Minister for Trade was visiting Britain. At present the British authorities are very hopeful of expanding trade with China. We should leave no stone unturned in trying to find out whether there is any possibility of increasing our trade with that very large country. If we are serious about improving relations with [1325] Asia, that is the largest power there. The British see a possibility of increasing that trade. We should leave no stone unturned in trying to expand our trade.

Mr. O'Kennedy: In our discussions with countries with which we have existing diplomatic relations, notably some of the major countries who would have a political interest in having diplomatic relations with us, I have made it quite clear we believe one of the best ways of fostering good relations within countries is to allow us the freest possible access to their markets. If they wish to promote good relations within countries, one of the ways of proving that to us is to offer us every facility for expanding our exports. I see diplomatic representation and trade as a priority in terms that the initial impact is made at political level, that is, ambassadorial level. You then give a status and significance to the follow-up on behalf of the other organisations. That is the way in which I will pursue the matter.

Mr. Quinn: When the Minister answered a similar question some months ago, he indicated that there were difficulties in connection with the People's Republic of China and what is known as Formosa. He indicated that it was under active review. Could he now tell the House whether progress has been made on the resolution of that problem?

Mr. O'Kennedy: I did not indicate that there were difficulties, in fact the opposite. I said it was not for us to consider issues between other countries. We deal with these matters on the basis of representations and associations between the countries concerned —between ourselves and the countries with whom we propose to have relations.