Chinese Premier Li Keqiang touched down at Shannon Airport today, beginning of a two-day visit to Ireland.
Premier Li and his wife Professor Cheng Hong were greeted on arrival at the airport by Minister for Finance Michael Noonan, Shannon Group chairman Rose Hynes, CEO Neil Pakey, Irish Ambassador to China Paul Kavanagh, Ambassador extraordinary and plenipotentiary of the People's Republic of China to Ireland Jianguo Xu and Pat Breen TD.
The entourage departed the airport for Headford in Co Galway, where Premier Li, who is being accompanied on the visit by eight Chinese Government Ministers, was joined by Taoiseach Enda Kenny on a visit to a local farm.
The delegation then moves onto Ashford Castle for high-level meetings between Premier Li, Taoiseach and Ministers from both Governments.
Speaking in Shannon Minister for Finance Michael Noonan said: “It’s a very important visit because Premier Li is on the way to an extensive visit in South America and as part of that they have decided to stop over in Ireland.”
Minister Noonan said that securing China investment in the financial services in Ireland will be one of the topics on the agenda this evening.
“Our principal interest up to now in the Chinese market has been exports,” he said.
“It’s generally known now that baby food produced in this region goes to China. They regard the baby food in Ireland as of very high quality and safe and there’s a huge demand for it.
“As well as that, in November the Chinese market opened up for the export of Irish beef and the actual exporting of the beef so that it’s available in the Chinese supermarkets we would hope will begin very shortly.
“We would also like to see more Chinese inward investment and they have a particular interest in financial services.
“The gentleman that I will be sitting beside for dinner tonight is Chairman of one of their big banks and I am sure my conversation with him will be about the prospects for Chinese investment in the financial services sector.”
Shannon chairman Rose Hynes said that Premier Li’s arrival was another significant day for the airport and region.
“The Chinese Government has a relationship with this region going back to the 1980s,” she said.
“Chinese President Xi Jinping visited here in 2012 and to have the Chinese Premier here today speaks volumes about the ties between China and this part of Ireland.
“Very strong trade links are being developed between China and Ireland and, in that context, we are delighted to see such focus on the Shannon and wider West of Ireland region.”