On visit to Ireland, Chinese premier eyes deeper economic ties

By Padraic Halpin

DUBLIN (Reuters) -China would like to deepen economic and trade cooperation with Ireland, particularly in areas of “huge potential” such as green technologies and the digital economy, Premier Li Qiang said on Wednesday during a trip to Dublin.

Li, the most senior Chinese official to visit Ireland since his predecessor Li Keqiang in 2015, said he had candid, friendly discussions with Ireland’s prime minister and president and that the countries were “very much on the same page” on many issues.

“Looking ahead, we would like to work more closely with Ireland to build on what we already achieved,” Li said in a speech through an interpreter.

“There’s huge potential in our cooperation in green technologies, in bio manufacturing, in the digital economy. We can compliment each other with our respective strength and share development opportunities.”

Li, who is finishing his European trip in Ireland, highlighted China’s potential for foreign investment in a keynote speech to business leaders at the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos on Tuesday.

The Irish government said Beijing had agreed to lift a two-month suspension of Irish beef exports to China following meetings between officials. Beef shipments were suspended following the discovery of an isolated case of atypical Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE) in November.

Before exchanging toasts with Li, Prime Minister Leo Varadkar said Ireland was also committed to pursuing deeper economic ties and assisting Irish and Chinese companies, on the basis of transparency and fair competition.

He said that while the two countries will not agree on everything, Ireland wanted a “very strong and constructive relationship,” noting that four Irish ministers had visited China in the last 10 months.

He also described China’s role in the world as indispensable when it comes to tackling challenges, such as climate change, global security, global inequality, and the conflicts in Ukraine, the Middle East and Myanmar.

“The voice of China carries great weight in the world and as a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council, I believe you can make transformative contributions to the resolution of these issues,” Varadkar said.

(Reporting by Padraic Halpin; Editing by Jon Boyle, Tomasz Janowski and Toby Chopra)