China is a 'tremendous opportunity'

Tue, Feb 21, 2012, 00:00

CHINA REPRESENTS a “tremendous business opportunity for Irish companies” Chinese vice-president Xi Jinping told delegates at the Ireland-China Trade and Investment Forum yesterday.

Noting that Chinese imports are due to exceed $8 trillion (€6.1tn) by 2015, Mr Xi said he hoped that Irish companies would “seize the opportunities”.

“We welcome Irish companies’ participation in China,” Mr Xi said, adding: “I’m really excited to explore ways to promote our economic and trade links”.

Mr Xi told delegates that China was a “reliable friend” of Ireland and that it would support efforts of the EU-IMF-ECB to address European debt problems, he said.

Mr Xi also noted that China has been a “late starter” in terms of its investment in Ireland, which came to $148 million in 2011. However, he added that it had been growing fast. Overall, bi-lateral trade between the two countries increased by 8.6 per cent in 2011 to $8.6 billion, and China is Ireland’s 10th largest trading partner and its biggest in Asia.

Enterprise Ireland said yesterday that Irish exports to China grew by 10 per cent in 2011, for the second year in a row and the agency is aiming for a further 15 per cent growth in 2012.

“China is a priority market for Enterprise Ireland and we’re working intensively with Irish companies to help them access growth opportunities in China,” said Frank Ryan, chief executive of Enterprise Ireland, also speaking at the forum.

ICBC, China’s largest commercial bank, opened its Irish aviation leasing operation, ICBC Leasing International Company, in May 2009. Speaking yesterday, chief executive Cong Lin, told delegates that it is now doing business in 10 countries from Ireland, leasing 37 airplanes with $2 billion in assets.

He described its Dublin operation as a “bridge” for ICBS, noting that last year the company completed a dollar bond transaction to provide financing for the firm, and ordered almost 100 other planes. Over the next six to eight years, these will be leased to global airlines from Dublin.

The forum was also attended by representatives of Irish companies, including Myles Lee, chief executive of CRH, and a number of trade agreements were signed, including those by Keeling Fruits and Mainstream Renewable Power.