Dáil Éireann - Volume 596 - 26 January, 2005

Written Answers. - Official Travel.

  145. Mr. Gormley asked the Taoiseach if he will report on his most recent trade delegation visit to China; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [1489/05]

  The Taoiseach: From 17 to 23 January, I made an official visit to China and Hong Kong. The purpose of the visit was to further enhance Ireland’s strong economic and trade links with China. I was accompanied on the trip by my colleagues, the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, the Minister for Health and Children, the Minister for Agriculture and Food and the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources. On this visit, I led the biggest trade delegation ever to leave Ireland. It comprised more than 200 people representing over 120 companies in a wide variety of business and academic sectors. This element of the visit was co-ordinated by Enterprise Ireland. The visit allowed for meetings between the Ministers accompanying me and their Chinese counterparts in bilateral sessions and at round table meetings.

China is the world’s fifth largest economy and it is essential that Ireland makes its presence firmly felt there. The visit was designed to drive forward our economic, trade, agriculture, education and tourism interests through dedicated commercial and trade events and signings with Chinese partners. I am pleased that contracts worth hundreds of millions of euro were signed in the course of the visit. The importance of the Chinese economy to Ireland is reflected in the Government’s Asia strategy, a new phase of which is currently being prepared.

I renewed a number of important political connections during the visit. I met with President Hu Jintao, Premier Wen Jaibao and the Chief Executive of Hong Kong. My discussions with all three focused on bilateral and trade relations, EU-China relations and political issues, including human rights. I also had a short bilateral meeting with the Prime Minister of Canada, Paul Martin. We discussed bilateral relations, the Northern Ireland peace process and UN reform. My visit afforded political outreach and awareness-raising through keynote speeches at the prestigious Tsinghua and Fudan universities.

The importance of tourism, including cultural tourism, was addressed throughout the visit. Irish musicians, including Dervish, and dancers accompanied the delegation for this purpose and were well received. The Hong Kong leg of my journey coincided with a visit by the GAA Allstars. I took the opportunity to watch them play and to meet the teams afterwards.