The Irish Government and Bord Bia have completed an "intensive series" of virtual trade meetings with China, just as tensions mount following the imposition of European and other sanctions against the world's second largest economy.
On Monday, Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Charlie McConalogue, and Minister of State for New Market Development Martin Heydon said the meetings were with both existing and potential customers in China.
An important market for the agri-food sector, exports have grown over the last 10 years and were valued at over €872 million last year, notably dairy and pig meat.
“In normal times, my Department and Bord Bia would lead at least one trade mission to China every year, and I am hopeful that an in-person trade mission to China will be possible before the end of this year,” Mr McConalogue said.
The meetings have taken place against an increasingly fraught international backdrop. Earlier this month the EU, UK, US and Canada co-ordinated sanctions against communist party officials in the northwest of China where Uighurs and other Muslims have been interned since 2017. China responded by imposing its own sanctions.
The Irish trade talks, meanwhile, have also focused on beef exports. Although China is considered valuable to future exports in the sector, they have been suspended since last May.
"My officials, through the Embassy of Ireland in Beijing, continue to engage positively with their Chinese counterparts with a view to reopening market access for Irish beef," Mr McConalogue said.
“I very much hope that trade will resume soon, but we must recognise that the timing of that decision lies with the Chinese authorities.”