Dáil Éireann - Volume 524 - 12 October, 2000

Written Answers. - Overseas Visit.

48. Mr. Creed asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if she will report on her recent visit to China. [21549/00]

53. Mr. Broughan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the results of her recent visit to China; the trade or other initiatives she expects to result from her visit; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [21554/00]

75. Mr. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if she will report on her findings arising from her recent trips overseas; the expectations she has for increased trade with other countries; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [21683/00]

[141] Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment (Ms Harney): I propose to take Questions Nos. 48, 53 and 75 together.

I led a trade mission to China between 8 and 16 September last. The visit was organised in line with the Asia Strategy, which the Government approved last year.

The trade mission included 60 representatives from 51 Irish companies, making it the largest trade mission ever to go from Ireland to Asia. The number of interested companies is an indication of both the possibilities offered by trade with China and the growing interest on the part of Irish businesses in developing their trading links with China. The education, engineering and IT sectors made up the majority of the companies represented.

During the mission, I witnessed signing ceremonies, which concreted the relationships between Irish companies and their Chinese partners. I also attended the official opening of Kerry Ingredients office in China and of a new joint venture school operated by the Irish branch of International House and its local partner.

I attended a major business reception, attended by over 250 of the Irish participants' local contacts and approximately 50 journalists, in Beijing and similar events in Shanghai and Hong Kong.

In Beijing, I had a substantive and wide-ranging meeting with Vice Premier Li Lanqing, who visited Ireland last April. I also met Premier Zhu Rongji, and I signed an inter-governmental agreement on co-operation in science and technology with the Chinese Minister for Science and Technology, Zhu Lilan.

In Shanghai, in addition to meeting both the Mayor and Vice-Mayor of this important commercial city, I performed the official opening of Ireland's new Consulate General, the establishment of which was one of the elements of the Asia Strategy.

In Hong Kong, I met the Financial Secretary, Donald Tsang, the Secretary for IT and Broadcasting, Carrie Yau and the Secretary for Commerce, Chau Tak-Hay.

Throughout the visit, press interviews and press conferences were organised and provided excellent fora in which to promote knowledge of Ireland generally and of our business interests in particular.

Given the high level of interest which the mission provoked both in Ireland and in China I am sure that we will see significant results over the coming years as the relationships between Irish companies and their Chinese counterparts develop.

One immediate outcome will be the visits to Ireland of no less than five software delegations, a total of 54 business people, from China between 31 October and 12 November. These visits will be organised by Enterprise Ireland which is also arranging for six top Chinese journalists to visit Ireland in the same period.

Prior to the summer, from 7 to 10 June 2000, I led a trade mission including 28 companies to the [142] Slovak and Czech Republics. This was the first ever trade mission from Ireland to the Slovak Republic and the largest ever to the Czech Republic.

In addition to the official elements of the visits, I witnessed several signatures between Irish companies and their local partners and attended a number of business functions designed to assist Irish companies to develop and cement their relationships with their local contacts. Media events helped to raise Ireland's profile as a world class supplier of goods and services locally.

Trade missions such as these supplement the excellent work done by our representatives overseas, and in particular by Enterprise Ireland, to promote Ireland as a source of high quality goods and services. However, it is the solid and daily work of the companies themselves to develop their sales which ultimately provides the economic benefit to Ireland.

Based on what I have seen on these missions, and on what I know from my contacts with Irish business, I am sure that Ireland's excellent trade performance over the past number of years will continue.