Xi's Irish trip brings trade bonanza

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Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping and Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny attended Ireland and China Trade and Investment Forum in Dublin on Feb. 20, 2012.[Xinhua]

Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping (2nd L) and Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny shake hands at the Ireland and China Trade and Investment Forum in Dublin on Feb. 20, 2012.[Xinhua] 

Vice President Xi Jinping wrapped up his three-day visit to Ireland on Monday with a trade bonanza and greater cooperation.

An agreement to set up a joint investment promotion group was signed by the Ministry of Commerce and the Irish Ministry of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation on Monday as China seeks more investment opportunities in Europe.

The total value of Chinese investment in Ireland is now $148 million, Vice President Xi Jinping said on Monday at the China-Ireland Trade and Investment Forum, attended by about 300 company executives from both countries.

Xi said that China's total foreign investment is likely to reach $500 billion in 2015. "This will bring business opportunities for companies from all over the world, Ireland included," he said.

China will continue to encourage Chinese firms to invest in Ireland, Xi said and he also welcomed Irish companies to invest in China, especially in the traditional industrial bases of Northeast China.

He called for both countries to cooperate more in high-tech sectors such as software and bio-pharmaceuticals.

China is a reliable friend for Europe and Ireland, Xi said, especially amid efforts to emerge from the eurozone crisis. Xi reiterated China's support for Europe.

Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny said that Ireland's advantages represent "an enormous opportunity for China".

China is one of Ireland's "top international priorities for business development", he said before adding that he looks forward to visiting China in March.

"Ireland and China have much to offer each other in food and agriculture, in high technology research and in investment. We should make every effort to realize that potential," Kenny said at a dinner he held for Xi on Sunday.

Apart from the investment group, three deals were signed on promoting trade, services and boosting cooperation in higher education between Beijing Technology University and University College Dublin.

Commenting on Xi's three-day visit that started on Saturday, Irish Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs Eamon Gilmore said it is an "opportunity" for Ireland to increase trade with China and to attract more inward investment.

"That, in turn, would be converted into jobs and economic growth. It's part of our strategy to re-grow the Irish economy, (and) get jobs here," he told reporters.

Gilmore also said Xi "certainly indicates to us a willingness to be helpful and supportive (regarding the eurozone)".

The Irish economy is slowly recovering after the eurozone member was forced to seek an 85-billion-euro ($112 billion) EU-International Monetary Fund rescue package in November 2010 after massive debt and deficit problems left the economy on the verge of collapse.

The unemployment rate in Ireland stands at 14.5 percent, meaning 439,600 Irish people are out of work, according to the Irish Voice newspaper. The government last week unveiled an ambitious action plan to create 200,000 jobs in eight years.

China has been Ireland's biggest trading partner in Asia for five consecutive years. Bilateral trade reached $5.87 billion in 2011, an increase of 8.6 percent from 2010.

In terms of investment, Chinese investors decided in 2008 to build the Europe China Trade Hub in Athlone, a town strategically located in the center of Ireland 90 minutes away by train from either Dublin or Shannon airports. The hub will showcase the work of Chinese manufacturers to European and other international buyers.

As the only English speaking country in the eurozone, and a country with a low corporate tax rate of 12.5 percent, Ireland is an ideal place for Chinese investors to access Europe, said Kevin Lynch, founder of the law firm Clerkin Lynch and chairman of the Ireland China Association.

Xi also met with Irish President Michael Higgins and parliamentary leaders on Monday.

Ireland is the second leg of Xi's three-nation tour. He had visited the United States, and will also fly to Turkey.


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