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Remarks by H.E. Dr. Yue Xiaoyong in welcoming HNA to Ireland

Ambassador of the People's Republic of China

(From Chinese Embassy in Ireland)

2018/05/29

Brown Thomas, Dublin, 24th May 2018

Chairperson Ms. Susan Barrett,
Ms. Martina Riches,
Mr. Dómhnall Slattery,
Mr. Jon Woolf,
Mr. Ryan Zhang,
Distinguished Guests,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

On the outset, please allow me on behalf of the Chinese Embassy in Ireland to express my warm congratulations on the planned and announced launching of the Beijing-Dublin non-stop passenger flight service by Hainan Airlines.

I'd also like to extend my appreciation to Ireland China Business Association (ICBA) and BROWN THOMAS for organizing this event today.

It is undoubtedly a significant and inspiring breakthrough in China-Ireland bilateral relations for HNA to start to operate the first direct flight service between the capital cities of our countries. The new air link will make travel and exchanges easier and more efficient. It will help boost business and tourism, and bring our two peoples closer. HNA and DAA have done a great job and they deserve our applause.

The direct air route is opening at the right time, as the relations between Ireland and China are strengthening and bearing new fruits.

Under the strong and wise leadership of President Xi Jinping, China has enjoyed robust and steady development. China's Reform and Opening Up drive is deepening and has exciting prospects for greater success. China has entered a New Era with the successful convening of the 19th CPC National Congress in October 2017. Ireland has managed to retain its enviable status as the fastest growing economy in Europe for 4 consecutive years. Irish leaders have reaffirmed on a number of occasions their commitment to a stronger and more fruitful partnership between Ireland and China.

Thanks to the vision and wisdom of the national leaders in both our countries, and thanks to the staunch support of the people in various sectors and from all walks of life, I'm happy and proud to note this evening, the China-Ireland Strategic Partnership for Mutually Beneficial Cooperation is now faced with new opportunities.

The high-level politicians and officials of our countries are having frequent dialogues and exchanges. Earlier this month Mr. Cai Qi, a member of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China (CPC) and Secretary of the CPC Beijing Municipal Committee led a CPC delegation to Dublin. Party Secretary Cai met with the Taoiseach Mr. Leo Varadkar, the Ceann Comhairle‎ (Parliamentary Speaker) Mr. ‎Seán Ó Fearghaíl, and the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Mr. Simon Coveney.

In April, The Ceann Comhairle ‎Seán Ó Fearghaíl visited five Chinese cities and met his counterparts in Beijing Mr. Li Zhanshu, Chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (NPC), and Mr. Wang Yang, Chairman of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC). Both Mr. Li Zhanshu and Mr. Wang Yang are members of China's top leadership group, known as the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee, which comprises only 7 people, including the President and the Premier.

The Tánaiste and Foreign Minister Mr. Simon Coveney had an equally successful trip to China in March during the festive season of Saint Patrick's Day. When he was in Beijing, Mr. Coveney had a cordial meeting with his counterpart Mr. Wang Yi, State Councilor and Minister of Foreign Affairs.

Last week, Mr. Michael Creed, Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, led a big trade delegation to Beijing, Shanghai, Hangzhou and Hong Kong and met his Chinese counterparts Mr. Han Changfu, Chinese Minister of Agriculture and Rural Affairs, and Mr. Zhang Mao, Minister of the State Administration for Market Regulation (SAMR).

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The bilateral pragmatic cooperation in various fields has also been further expanded, with encouraging progress in trade, investment and other sectors. Last year, bilateral trade volume between Ireland and Ireland grew by 36.7% to 11 billion U.S. dollars. That growth rate beat all the other EU members.

China has continued to be the 3rd largest export market for Irish food and beverages, and the 2nd largest market for Irish dairy and pork exports. Two-way investment has also been encouraging. In 2017, Chinese companies put over 100 million U.S. dollars in Ireland, and Irish companies invested over 150 million USD in China. Last month, 3 Irish beef processing plants were approved by the Chinese authorities to start exporting beef to the vast Chinese market.

We have also seen growth and progress in bilateral exchanges and cooperation in other important sectors, including education, culture, tourism, and science, technology and innovation. The total number of outbound Chinese tourists reached 146 million in 2017, of which over 70,000 visited Ireland. Over 10,000 Chinese students are now studying in Ireland, mostly in Irish universities and institutes of technology. The second phase of China-Ireland Technology Growth Fund was launched in March this year to boost technological collaboration.

Both sides attach importance to cultural exchanges. So far this year we have had the pleasure of welcoming to Dublin two groups outstanding performing artists from China, and their performances were very successful and popular -- "Night of Beijing" Chinese folk music concert was held on 10th May at the City Hall in Dublin, and "Night of Shaolin" was held in the Convention Centre Dublin on 16th February.

I am happy to note that Deputy Prime Minister Simon Coveney announced during his St. Patrick's Day trip to China a 3-year multiple-entry tourist visa scheme and 5-year multiple-entry business visa scheme for the Chinese applicants with good records.

The Chinese Government has also announced that beginning from May 1st his year, tourists from 59 countries (including Ireland) can visit Hainan, HNA's home province, and stay there for up to 30 days without acquiring a visa. The new direct air route between Beijing and Dublin will provide us with more options. We will all be able to enjoy the benefit of this new air link.

Ladies and gentlemen,

2019 will mark the 6th year of the "Belt and Road Initiative" (BRI), and the 40th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and Ireland. I'm confident that more opportunities will be created for China-Ireland relations and for China's win-win cooperation with international partners.

I hope the leaders and people of Ireland, including ICBA and other institutions, will work together with us to roll up our sleeves, seize the moment of opportunities and strive for greater accomplishments in win-win cooperation for the benefit of both the Chinese and the Irish peoples.

Thank you.

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