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Virus outbreak may scupper Antrim council's trade visit to China


Maureen Morrow

Maureen Morrow

Maureen Morrow

A trade mission to China costing £8,000 by Mid and East Antrim Borough Council is under review after the outbreak of the Wuhan coronavirus.

The civic visit by a council delegation is due to take place in April.

However, it has emerged that the plans could be disrupted by the outbreak of the virus.

In a statement the council confirmed that it was "currently considering" the planned trade mission and that it would "closely monitor the situation" ahead of the visit.

The council confirmed that the £8,000 cost of the visit to China "relates to flights, with accommodation being provided by hosts".

The party will be headed by Ulster Unionist mayor Maureen Morrow and will include the DUP's Gregg McKeen (chairman of the borough growth committee) and Audrey Wales, as well as two council officers.

The visit to Donghai and Anshan is being organised with assistance from the Northern Ireland Bureau.

It visited Anshan recently in order to research "collaborative opportunities" between the Chinese city and Northern Ireland.

Last May Mid and East Antrim Council welcomed the Chinese Consul General Madame Meifang Zhang and her delegation for key meetings in a bid to strengthen business and trade links.

Councillor McKeen said: "Mid and East Antrim Borough Council's elected members previously approved council's participation in a forthcoming trade mission to China, and we intend to fully capitalise on this opportunity to showcase the investment potential of our area to this global-leading market, as we look to deliver major, sustainable economic growth in Mid and East Antrim.

"Our borough is home to many companies with existing trading relationships with China and we have been working with the Northern Ireland Bureau and the Chinese Consulate to develop further opportunities for partnership, trade and investment from these markets focusing on sectoral strengths in advanced manufacturing, agriculture, tourism and the knowledge economy.

"During the forthcoming trade mission the council delegation will work on growing government to government relations; promoting economic opportunities; identifying areas of mutual interest and share knowledge; promoting awareness of culture and tourism assets; and promoting research and technology, including automation, robotics, healthcare and commercial developments."

Speaking during last year's visit, Madame Zhang said: "We are looking forward to working closely with Mid and East Antrim Borough Council with the friendly, co-operative relationship we have now built upon."

The Northern Ireland Bureau works with Invest Northern Ireland and the 11 local authorities to identify opportunities for trade and investment and establish mutually-beneficial partnerships.

The Mid and East Antrim Borough Council delegation visit is scheduled to get under way on April 27.

Belfast Telegraph