DUBLIN  - Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny begins a four-day trade mission in China on Sunday, one month after the Asian giant’s leader-in-waiting paid a visit to Dublin.
Kenny will meet business leaders in Shanghai before heading to Beijing for talks with Premier Wen Jiabao and Vice President Xi Jinping, who spent three days in Ireland in February.
Speaking ahead of his departure, Kenny said Ireland had been working hard to boost its image in China as it seeks investment as well as new markets for Irish goods to help the eurozone member country emerge from a deep recession.
Ireland was forced to seek a 85 billion euro ($112 billion) rescue package from the European Union and the International Monetary Fund in November 2010, after massive debt and deficit problems left the economy on the verge of collapse.
“We have greatly appreciated the positive signals from China in support of Europe’s efforts to resolve the sovereign debt crisis” that has also seen Greece and Portugal receive bailout funds, Kenny said.
“There is no doubt that this has helped to stabilise financial markets and in the process made it much easier for us in Ireland to address our own problems,” he added.
Kenny emphasised the similarities between China and Ireland, saying both are moving towards “a knowledge-based economy built on innovation and technology, and our companies have all the elements for working more closely together.”
The taoiseach will also seek to boost the number of Chinese tourists in Ireland and to increase cultural links between the two nations.
Ireland was the only EU country that Xi visited on his international tour last month.
Although his stop was focused on trade, the Chinese vice-premier also took time to try out Gaelic football and attend a performance of Riverdance.