Simon Coveney expects beef exports to China by summer

Tánaiste hails strength of China-Ireland business ties during visit to Beijing

Chinese president Xi Jinping  and his wife Peng Liyuan: It’s nearly three years since China formally lifted a ban on Irish beef exports to China imposed after the BSE crisis.

Chinese president Xi Jinping and his wife Peng Liyuan: It’s nearly three years since China formally lifted a ban on Irish beef exports to China imposed after the BSE crisis.

 

The export of Irish beef to China is expected to resume before the summer, the Tánaiste, Simon Coveney, said during his St Patrick’s Day trip to Beijing, part of a positive picture of trade between Ireland and the world’s second-biggest economy.

“Positive news on beef is on the way. We’re there, the final stages have been achieved. This is really just a formality in terms of veterinary sign-off and things like that. I’d be very confident that we’ll have Irish beef in here by the summer,” Mr Coveney told The Irish Times in an interview at the Irish embassy in Beijing.

“There’s been a lot of work but all the political hurdles are now done. It’s a technical issue,” said Mr Coveney, who had just returned from a nearly three-hour meeting with China’s foreign minister, Wang Yi.

Mr Wang told the Tánaiste that trade between the State and China grew faster than that of any other country last year, expanding by 37 per cent.

Direct flight

Mr Coveney was speaking shortly before attending an event to mark another landmark event in China-Ireland relations: the launch of the first direct flight between Dublin and Beijing, starting in June on Hainan Airlines. A direct flight between Dublin and Hong Kong will also begin in June on Cathay Pacific airlines.

It’s nearly three years since China formally lifted a ban on Irish beef exports to China imposed after the BSE crisis, but there has been no formal agreement on when trade can resume.

Inspectors from the China state administration of quality supervision, inspection and quarantine have made numerous trips to visit Irish beef plants.

While beef has always been a minority taste in China compared to pork, it is growing in popularity there and the country is now the world’s second-biggest importer of beef.

Demand

Rising demand, combined with the expense of domestically produced meat, means China is looking overseas for its beef.

Mr Coveney said trade and foreign direct investment opportunities were very significant. “We are going to see a lot more Chinese investment in Ireland, but on the basis of running international business out of Ireland, not buying up Irish assets.

“People get the message that Ireland is not for sale, but is a very welcoming and business-friendly location,” he said.

“There are 300 Irish companies exporting into China, 150 Irish companies with a presence here, and then look at the list of Chinese companies already in Ireland looking to expand: Huawei, Tencent, TravelSky, Bank of China, HNA, ICBC, China Construction Bank.”