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Helping to make China the number one market for Irish exporters

The largest ever trade mission from Ireland to China is being aided by organisations set up to promote links between the two countries

The China International Import Expo (CIIE) is being promoted in this country by the Ireland China Science and Technology Association (ICSATA) and the China Europe Business Association (CEBA).

Wen Chen is a chairman of ICSATA which, he says, is a “non-profit organisation endorsed and supported by the Irish and Chinese Governments, primarily to build an international platform for scientific and technological co-operation and exchanges so as to promote the overall collaboration between the two countries in the area of technology, collaboration between the two countries in the area of technology, external trade, educational and cultural links and talent exchange.

“We also  assist both the Chinese and Irish governments to promote the bilateral relationship at all levels – local and national,” he says. “We also work to promote international relations at all levels – local and national.”

The organisation’s first task was to assist in the visit to Ireland by a delegation from China’s southern province of Guangdong in June 2017. During the four-day visit, which was led by Hu Chunhua, member of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee and secretary of the Guangdong Provincial CPC Committee, a business roundtable meeting was held in which more than 120 Guangdong and Irish entrepreneurs participated.


“Our top priority in 2018 is to promote CIIE,” Chen says. “This is the first event of its kind ever and the largest ever expo of any kind for China. Some 2,800 companies from around the world will exhibit at this event and we expect 150,000 purchasers from China and elsewhere to visit during the six days. Ireland will be represented in a number of critical sectors including food, technology, education, e-commerce, baby products and intelligent equipment.”

The significance of the event is confirmed by the scale of the Irish participation. “This is the largest trade mission ever from Ireland to China with 27 Irish companies and organisations attending. Ireland was one of the first European countries to confirm its participation.”

This happened in May during a food industry trade delegation to China and Hong Kong led by Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Michael Creed. During the visit, Ireland was formally invited by the Chinese government to have a presence at CIIE and a memorandum of understanding (MOU) confirming acceptance was signed by Bord Bia chief executive Tara McCarthy.

Commenting after the MOU was signed, Creed said: “It is a great honour for Ireland to be invited by the Chinese authorities to participate in this November’s event in Shanghai. An event such as this, which is being promoted by the Chinese government, offers the ideal opportunity for Irish food exporters to do business and enhance relationships.”

“It is not just a commercial event,” Chen adds. “It is also very important politically. President Xi Jinping will open it himself. It offers an excellent opportunity for Irish SMEs to meet buyers and get into the Chinese market. ICSTA will be working hard to ensure that Irish companies have a successful and smooth experience at the Expo. We will help arrange meetings for Irish companies to discuss business opportunities with Chinese buyers.”

Chad Huang is director of Jade Aviation and president of the China Europe Business Association. "I hope that companies from all sectors can use the Expo as a platform to promote themselves in China. It will offer a great bridge between the two countries. A lot of people still see China as very far away and this is an opportunity for them to get to know the market."

Dramatic growth

He believes there is scope for quite dramatic growth in Irish exports to China. “I take the view that it is possible to make China the number one market in the world for Irish exporters,” he says. “Chinese companies are also making investments here in Ireland and not only in business. Cultural ties are developing as well. We support that and are working a lot with the culture sector. For example, there is a national rugby team in China and we are working with the IRFU on that.”

He sees international events having an influence on the relationship. “I can see the relationship growing as a result of Brexit and the One Belt One Road initiative, for example. Ireland is at the far end of One Belt One Road initiative – you could call it the final destination. I see lots of opportunities for trade and investment between the two countries there.

“Brexit is presenting Ireland with new challenges,” Huang continues. “I really hope Irish companies take the opportunity to develop business with China. Our market is now open for beef and six processors are exporting into China now. There are also significant opportunities in areas like engineering, ICT, and pharma.”

The other zone of opportunity he sees is the current trade conflict between China and the US, which he believes will last for quite a few years. “That will allow Ireland play an important role,” he says. “Ireland can be a key bridge between the two countries due to its good relationships with both of them. I hope that people can realise that and work on it. Companies can now trade with China without difficulty and I hope Ireland takes the opportunity that is there for it.”