Belfast Telegraph

Cowen confident of Chinese trade

There are major opportunities to increase trade and investment between Ireland and China, Taoiseach Brian Cowen has said.

After meeting a senior Chinese government official, Mr Cowen insisted Ireland's reputation is "very strong" in the communist state.

The Taoiseach held talks at Government Buildings with Li Changchun, the most influential Chinese politician to visit Ireland since premier Wen Jiabao in 2004.

"In the light of my discussions with Mr Li today, I am convinced that there are major opportunities to increase trade and investment between Ireland and China," he said. "Mr Li made clear to me that Ireland's brand and reputation are very strong in China."

Talks centred on trade and investment, culture and education and agriculture, with the Taoiseach noting a substantial increase in bilateral trade between the two countries over the past 10 years.

He told visiting officials that Ireland's relationship with China is at the heart of the country's new strategy for trade, tourism and investment.

And he used the meeting to raise the issue of the export of beef to China.

Mr Li, a member of the Central Committee of the Communist Party and the fifth most senior politician in China, is on a two-day visit to Ireland and earlier met President Mary McAleese at Aras an Uachtarain.

Memos of understanding were signed by Tourism Minister Mary Hanafin and her counterpart Cai Wu on cultural co-operation and exchange and by Billy Kelleher, junior minister for trade and commerce, and his counterpart Chong Quan.

Mr Cowen also said the Government would co-finance with Chinese authorities to develop a new flagship building for the Confucius Institute at UCD. It will be the first Confucius Institute in the world to receive capital funding from the Chinese authorities.

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