Newly signed trade agreements to strengthen links with China will create jobs and boost investment in the Republic of Ireland, a minister said last night.
China's vice president Xi Jinping and Taoiseach Enda Kenny witnessed the signing of several 'door-opening' agreements at Dublin Castle between Government departments, State agencies, universities and companies.
Bilateral trade between the two countries was worth an estimated 4.2 billion euro in 2010 - up from 715 million euro ten years earlier.
Richard Bruton, Ireland's Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, said increasing trade and investment activity with key markets such as China was part of the Government's plan for economy recovery and job creation.
"This will be of assistance to Irish businesses seeking to break into the Chinese for the first time and expand their activities there," he added.
Jobs, trade, tourism and agriculture were the focus of the three day trip for Mr Xi and his 150-strong delegation of business leaders and government officials, who touched down at Shannon Airport last night.
Ireland is the only EU country Mr Xi - China's leader-in-waiting - will visit during his tour.
He earlier visited a family-run dairy farm at Sixmilebridge, Co Clare, where farmer James Lynch named a newborn calf after His Excellency.
Mr Xi also visited the dramatic Cliffs of Moher and saw a demonstration of Gaelic games in Croke Park - where he kicked a Gaelic football and hit a sliotar with a hurling.
The Taoiseach told Mr Xi his visit to Ireland came at an important stage in the development of relations between the two countries.
Mr Kenny said while vastly different size and separated by a great distance, both counties have much in common.
"Ireland and China have much to offer each other in food and agriculture, in high technology research and in investment," he said during a dinner toast in Dublin Castle.
"We should make every effort to realise that potential."
Amnesty and the Irish Falun Dafa Association, which staged a small protest outside Dublin Castle, have put pressure on the Government to tackle Mr Xi over China's human rights records.
He is widely expected to succeed president Hu Jintao, who must retire as head of the Communist Party later this year and from the presidency in 2013. The Irish Anti-war Movement also criticised the Government for being willing to do business with unsavoury regimes without a hint of criticism.
Jim Roche, spokesman, said: "While it is understandable that Irish people should welcome trade links with big economies like China, particularly in these difficult recessionary times, this must not be at any price.
"We must uphold Ireland's long tradition of support for basic human rights around the world - including in China."
Mr Bruton, who signed two of the agreements, said he saw strong potential for increased inward investment as China seeks to deepen its engagement with the EU.
He said as the only English-speaking member of the Eurozone, Ireland was strategically located for investment and to act as a bridge to Africa and the US.
- The promotion of Ireland/ China International Trade in Service to encourage trade.
- The establishment of an Ireland/China Investment Promotion Working Group, to promote investment.
- A joint educational institution by the Beijing University of Technology and University College Dublin.
- The China Association of Trade in Services and Dublin Chamber of Commerce will also sign a memorandum of understanding on long term cooperation in aspects of trade in services, particularly ICT, software outsourcing, and logistics.
- A number of company to company agreements will also be signed, including Keelings fruit and veg distributors and Xinjiang Top Agricultural Products Co. Ltd.
"These agreements are very welcome as we seek to grow our trade and investment links with China and ultimately create jobs," he added.
Mr Xi will meet President Michael D Higgins and attend a trade and investment forum tomorrow before flying to Turkey.
Vice president Xi also invited Mr Kenny to visit China.
The Taoiseach is expected to travel to China for the first time at the end of March.
The invitation came during the official dinner with the future leader of China in Dublin Castle.