Developing Ireland's trade and investment relationship with China is a key priority for the Government. This is reflected in the large number of high level visits that have taken place between Ireland and China in recent years, and the strong growth seen in many sectors. The implementation of Ireland's Trade, Tourism and Investment Strategy is overseen by the Export Trade Council, which I chair, and which includes relevant Ministers, heads of State Agencies involved in the promotion of Trade, Tourism and Investment and representatives of the private sector.
The Strategy includes numerical targets and associated action points for implementation and outlines 27 priority markets, of which China is one. Each market has a Local Market Team, which comprises the Embassy/Consulate and the relevant state agencies, under the direction of our Ambassador. China is a priority growth market for Irish companies. Export growth of 19% was recorded in 2012 to bring the total value of goods and services exported by Irish owned companies to China to €346m. Enterprise Ireland, in their recently revised strategy for China, have outlined a path to achieving total exports of €600m by 2016 – an ambitious 73% growth rate over the next 4 year period.
During my visit to China in July/August, I visited Beijing and Shanghai and met with many companies across practically all sectors of the economy – from tourism and food to education – and SMEs active in sectors as diverse as telecommunications and agricultural machinery. While the scale of opportunity in the Chinese market is enormous, it is nevertheless a market that takes somewhat longer to generate returns, compared to our more established export markets in Europe and the US. I am conscious of the need to provide the necessary support to Irish businesses seeking to exploit those opportunities.
The priority target sectors for export development over the next 3 year period are: Financial Services; Clean Technologies (including Energy Efficiency and Green Buildings); Pharmaceuticals; Information Technologies; Medical Devices; Education Services; Agri-Technologies; Equine Products and Services. In addition, and with the support of Bord Bia, Irish food & drink exports to China have more than doubled over the last three years, reaching €262m in 2012. The market is on track for a further increase in the region of 30% during 2013. The main focus of our food exports at present is on dairy, pork, and seafood. In line with the Government's plans for growth in the industry, China is expected to play an important role in the uptake of increased dairy production post CAP reform 2015. Securing access to mainland China for Irish beef will also play an important role in increasing our exports. Bord Bia has established a "Food Hub" in its office in Shanghai which provides a cost-effective way for Irish companies to achieve a presence within the market. At present nine companies are represented in the Bord Bia Food Hub.
My Department, in conjunction with all State Agencies present in China, will continue to work to maximise the benefits from the substantial goodwill and positive relations that exist between Ireland and China.