Chinese trade deal set to be signed
Ireland is expected to sign a number of "door-opening" agreements with China's leader-in-waiting Xi Jinping this weekend to boost trade between the two countries.
Ahead of an official three-day visit from the Chinese vice-president, Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore said China offered huge possibilities to Ireland's economic recovery.
"There's just enormous potential," he said. "This is a significant visit politically, but also at this point in Ireland's recovery path."
Mr Xi, 58, will arrive at Shannon Airport on Saturday afternoon after a five-day trip to the US. He is also expected to travel to Turkey during his tour.
Asked why he was visiting Ireland rather than other countries, Mr Gilmore said: "All I can tell you is that we have been working through our own diplomatic efforts on the China beat for some time."
The vice-president is widely expected to succeed China's President Hu Jintao, who must retire as head of the Communist Party later this year and from the presidency in 2013.
Mr Gilmore, also Dublin's foreign affairs minister, is preparing to sign a number of trade agreements with Mr Xi on Sunday to help Irish businesses sell into China and vice-versa.
The Government's "Asia strategy" has highlighted lucrative opportunities to export food and drink to China, particularly for the country's growing middle classes who have increasingly more money to spend.
Other industries being targeted are pharmaceuticals, IT, medical devices, tourism and education. There has also been suggestions of possible co-operation on alternative energy research.
Mr Gilmore said he will be selling Ireland to Mr Wi as a strategically located country within the European Union, which is part of the Eurozone but also as a "bridge" to Africa and the US.