Ireland is ‘country of honour’ at China trade expo

Irish companies seeking to tap Chinese market

Hainan Expo 2024

Irish food, fashion, culture and technology will take centre stage on Saturday on the southern Chinese island of Hainan at one of Asia’s biggest consumer goods exhibitions.

Ireland will be “country of honour” at the fourth China International Consumer Products Expo, which will feature more than 4,000 brands from 71 countries. Twenty-nine companies and organisations will showcase more than 50 Irish brands in a 500sq m national pavilion jointly hosted by Bord Bia, Enterprise Ireland, IDA, Tourism Ireland, Culture Ireland and the Irish Embassy in China.

“We are especially pleased to be country of honour this year, as 2024 marks the 45th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Ireland and China,” said Ireland’s Ambassador to China Ann Derwin. “At the Hainan Expo, Ireland hopes to raise the profile of its consumer products in the Chinese market. We want to raise awareness of Ireland in terms of trade, as a destination for tourism, as a university education destination, and as a destination for investment by Chinese companies.”

Small Irish food and whiskey producers will appear in the Irish pavilion alongside giant brands like Kerrygold and Jameson, which are already established in the Chinese market.


University College Dublin, University College Cork and the University of Limerick are among the educational institutions taking part.

High-end clothing brand Landskein is one of several Irish fashion brands at the Expo, which will feature an Irish fashion show as well as music and dance performances. Tourism Ireland is promoting Ireland’s architectural heritage as well as the country’s golf courses at the Expo.

Technology companies include one using artificial intelligence to make supply chains more efficient and another offering green energy products, a sector in which China is growing ever more dominant. Two-way trade between Ireland and China was worth €45 billion in 2022 and a succession of Ministers have visited Beijing since the lifting of pandemic restrictions. Minister for Finance Michael McGrath was in Hong Kong, Shanghai and Beijing last month, meeting Irish and Chinese business figures and politicians.

The IDA has offices in Beijing, Shanghai and Shenzhen and Chinese companies employ about 5,000 people in Ireland, while about 100 Enterprise Ireland firms in China employ a similar number. Chinese tech companies like TikTok, Temu and Shein have followed their American counterparts by making Dublin their European headquarters.

Hainan, a tropical island off China’s southern coast, is home to a free trade port that Beijing hopes will rival Dubai and Singapore by 2035. At the heart of the plan for Hainan is to make it a distinct administrative trading area within China. Goods coming into Hainan from outside China will not face customs checks or tariffs on the way in or out unless they are moving on to mainland China, so the trade border will be between Hainan and the mainland.

The idea is to use zero tariffs and low taxes to make Hainan a trading base for foreign enterprises, particularly those from southeast Asia. The promise is for Hainan to offer free trade, free flows of investment and cross-border capital, transportation and exit and entry for people.

Denis Staunton

Denis Staunton

Denis Staunton is China Correspondent of The Irish Times