Trade Missions Participation

Question No. 70 answered with Question No. 28

Question No. 71 answered with Question No. 14

Questions (69)

Mary Lou McDonald


69. Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he will provide details of his recent four day political and trade mission to China; the discussions he had with Chinese officials; and what is expected to be achieved by the visit. [41167/13]

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Written answers (Question to Foreign)

I refer the Deputy to my reply to PQ37204.13 on 18 September. I undertook a political and trade mission to China (Beijing and Shanghai) from 30 July to 3 August 2013, at the invitation of the Chinese Foreign Minister, Wang Yi. The purpose of my visit was to strengthen the high-level political engagement necessary to deliver on the Strategic Partnership Agreement between Ireland and China. I also had a series of engagements focussed on supporting Irish companies doing business in China, promoting Ireland as a tourist destination, and promoting Ireland as the best investment location for Chinese businesses looking to expand in Europe. The Strategic Partnership Agreement between China and Ireland was adopted in March last year during the visit of the Taoiseach to China, and extends to all areas of our bilateral relationship including political, diplomatic, trade, investment, agriculture and food, education and tourism.

In the period since it was agreed, there has been impressive progress made in Irish-Chinese relations. Eight Irish Government Ministers have visited China promoting trade and other links. On the Chinese side, there have been visits to Ireland by ten Ministers or other senior figures in the Chinese administration. Irish trade with China is now worth over €8 billion a year, with a strong trade surplus in Ireland’s favour.

During my visit, I had a number of high-level political engagements, including with the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr. Wang Yi; with a member of the State Council, Chairman Yu Zhengsheng; and with Minister Wang Jia Rui, Minister at the Communist Party International Department. At these meetings, I stressed the potential for increased investment and economic co-operation, and took the opportunity to promote Ireland as an education destination. I also raised the issue of access to the Chinese market for Irish beef. I had the opportunity also to discuss wider political issues, including human rights issues, EU-China relations, and current international developments.

During my visit, I announced that Ireland has secured full market access to China for salmon exports, which represents a sizeable opportunity for Irish salmon exporters, with demand for high-end seafood in China growing substantially each year. This followed intensive negotiations with the Chinese authorities by the Sea Fisheries Protection Authority (SFPA) in conjunction with the Irish Embassy in Beijing. Further, Dublin Airport Authority signed a twinning agreement during my visit to establish a Sister Airports partnership with Beijing Capital International Airport, which will allow the two companies to co-operate to further commercial and tourism links between the two cities. The agreement aims to enable the two airports to engage in a joint marketing initiative to improve airline services between Dublin and Beijing.

I held a number of engagements pursuing key priorities, including exports, food and agribusiness, education, tourism, targeting of investment, and support for Irish companies doing business in China. These included engagements organised by Tourism Ireland, Enterprise Ireland, IDA Ireland and Bord Bia.

I had meetings with a number of Chinese companies interested in investing in Ireland and potential partners for Irish exporters. These included Shanghai Bright, Huawei, Yanhua, the Bank of Communications and ChinaCache. I addressed approximately one hundred Chinese and Irish partner company senior executives at a business event organised by Enterprise Ireland. This allowed me to present Ireland’s key strengths both as an investment destination and as a trading partner. I also witnessed the signing of a number of significant memoranda of understanding, including one between IDA Ireland and the Shanghai Foreign Investment Development Board, which has responsibility for outbound investment.

I attended networking events organised by the Irish Embassy in Beijing and the Consulate General in Shanghai, which provided the opportunity to meet a wide range of official, business and cultural contacts. I addressed a promotional event organised by Tourism Ireland in Shanghai which was attended by over 100 representatives of the Chinese travel industry, including airlines, travel agents, tour operators and media.

While in Shanghai, I addressed the Shanghai Returned Scholars Association, a non-government network of influential senior academics, business people and officials, as well as the graduates of the Ireland-Shanghai Senior Officials Training Programme, which has improved awareness of Ireland and our influence, including on trade/investment-related issues, among key municipal government commissions.

Question No. 70 answered with Question No. 28.
Question No. 71 answered with Question No. 14.

Military Neutrality

Question No. 73 answered with Question No. 46

Question No. 74 answered with Question No. 50

Questions (72)

Pádraig MacLochlainn


72. Deputy Pádraig Mac Lochlainn asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he has read the recently published Red C Poll, commissioned by PANA, which details Irish persons attitudes to neutrality and the war in Syria; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41151/13]

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Written answers (Question to Foreign)

I read with interest the Red C Poll to which the Deputy refers, which indicates that 78% of the public supports Ireland’s policy of neutrality, a policy to which this Government is fully committed and which will remain a lynchpin of our foreign policy for the foreseeable future. This policy, which is characterised by non-participation in military alliances, is underpinned by a set of complementary values which informs our work on human rights and development, and our efforts to promote disarmament and the elimination of weapons of mass destruction.It is these same values which have motivated Ireland’s longstanding record of participation in international crisis management.

As a member of the United Nations, we consider that primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security rests with the UN Security Council. This is reflected within the triple-lock mechanism, which provides that the Defence Forces may only participate in peacekeeping operations which have been authorised by the UN. The triple lock enjoys overwhelming public support, as demonstrated in the Red C Poll, and offers the fullest legitimacy to the contribution which Ireland makes to international peacekeeping. We are furthermore committed to our obligation as members of the UN to provide assistance in any action which the Security Council takes in accordance with the UN Charter. It is in this context that Ireland has responded positively to the recent request to provide personnel for the UN Disengagement Observation Force in the Golan Heights. This mission has made a considerable contribution to stability in the Middle East since its establishment in 1974. As the confrontation between Government and opposition forces in Syria continues, ensuring that UNDOF can continue to operate effectively remains a priority for the United Nations in order to ensure that regional stability is not further threatened by this conflict.

I have repeatedly made clear Ireland’s opposition to the arming of the parties to the Syrian conflict, which can only further fuel this war. Ireland remains fully supportive of a negotiated peaceful solution, and urges the parties to the conflict to renew the Geneva II process with a view to ending the current conflict and alleviating the appalling suffering endured by the Syrian people.

Question No. 73 answered with Question No. 46.
Question No. 74 answered with Question No. 50.

Northern Ireland Issues

Question No. 76 answered with Question No. 19

Questions (75)

Willie O'Dea


75. Deputy Willie O'Dea asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the proposals he has had to have further discussions with the Northern Ireland Secretary of State and members of the Northern Ireland Executive regarding the proposed bill of rights; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41218/13]

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Written answers (Question to Foreign)

The Good Friday Agreement recognizes the need to elaborate the principles according to which society could be protected and flourish and a Bill of Rights for Northern Ireland is fundamental to ensuring these principles are given a legislative base. I believe that it is important that all voices are included in the process to formulate a Bill of Rights, most particularly civil society.I have made my views clear to the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland and will continue to raise the question of a Bill of Rights in my discussions with the First Minister and deputy First Minister. We all have important roles to play if we are to build permanent and lasting peace and reconciliation in Northern Ireland. The Government recognizes this and remains fully committed to this process, and to the full implementation of all Agreements which form the foundations of peace and reconciliation.

Question No. 76 answered with Question No. 19.

Humanitarian Aid

Questions (77)

Brian Stanley


77. Deputy Brian Stanley asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he will provide further details on his Department’s recent pledge of €700,000 in humanitarian aid to Mali; the person who will receive the funding; and the way it will it be spent. [41160/13]

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Written answers (Question to Foreign)

Last month, I announced €700,000 in funding to provide life-saving emergency assistance to refugees and internally displaced persons in Mali and to support ongoing efforts by the international community to respond to the crisis and support the recovery process in the country. €500,000 of this funding has been provided to the World Food Programme (WFP), the lead agency for hunger and nutrition in the Sahel region. The funding is supporting the WFP to provide life-saving humanitarian assistance, while at the same time strengthening communities’ resilience to face future shocks. Activities being undertaken by the WFP through this funding include food and cash assistance to affected households, supplementary feeding to both prevent severe acute malnutrition and to treat moderate acute malnutrition amongst children, and emergency school feeding. In providing this funding, Ireland is helping to meet the urgent humanitarian needs of displaced households and fragile host communities, across the country but particularly those most affected by the ongoing conflict in the North.

I also approved an allocation of €200,000 to the UN Trust Fund in Support of Peace and Security in Mali, earmarked towards the restoration of constitutional order and national unity, including the conduct of peaceful, credible and inclusive elections. This contribution is part of a comprehensive package of Irish support for the crisis response and recovery process in Mali, which also includes our contribution of personnel to EUTM Mali, our contribution to immediate post-crisis governance needs announced at the Addis Donor Conference in January 2013, as well as the significant levels of humanitarian funding both during and post-crisis.