Asia briefing: Howlin stresses positive view that Chinese have of Ireland

Tue, Sep 24, 2013, 01:00

Minister for Public Expenditure Brendan Howlin said a pro-reform speech by Chinese premier Li Keqiang at the World Economic Forum in Dalian, northeast China, was positive and a sign that China was committed to continued economic progress.

“Li Keqiang’s speech was interesting from every perspective. It’s full speed ahead on reform, and it certainly got the Chinese very excited,” Mr Howlin told Asia Briefing after his return from Dalian to Beijing. “It’s a signal the new regime will drive strongly forward. There will be no relenting from the path despite slower growth.”

Economic growth in China fell from 7.9 per cent in the fourth quarter of last year to 7.7 per cent in the first quarter and 7.5 per cent in the second of this year.

Mr Li said China was living in a time of accelerated change. “Changes call for innovation and innovation leads to progress. Reform and innovation is the running theme and spirit of the policies adopted by the Chinese government, and it is the banner that we will always hold high.”

Mr Howlin told of how he was struck by the recognition that Ireland enjoys in China. “What strikes you is the recognition that Ireland has. Everyone knows us and appreciates our situation. The Chinese media is very well versed. There is a degree of understanding and sophistication that surprised me and comprehension of how far we have come on the road to recovery.”

He said that, in terms of promoting Ireland in China, food was very important, as was the services sector. Education was also a crucial component.

“Even a tiny slice of any part of the Chinese market is significant for Ireland. China is Ireland’s seventh largest trading partner, our largest Asian partner.

“Perseverance is very important here. Image-wise, anyone who does know Ireland has a very positive view of it. Chinese firms are seeking to internationalise with European hubs, and we have to put ourselves on the agenda.”

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