The strategies are in place. The Government and its agencies are working very hard to establish direct air services to China to underpin further the growing tourism and trade relations between the two countries.
The House will recall that the Chinese Premier visited Ireland along with a number of other Chinese Ministers in May. In his meeting with Premier Li, the Taoiseach welcomed efforts to improve connectivity between Ireland and China and indicated his desire to see direct flights.
The legal framework for the operation of international air services is laid down in bilateral air transport agreements. Both Ireland and China signed such an agreement in 1998 to facilitate the establishment of direct air services. However, the setting up of such a service is ultimately a commercial decision for the airlines concerned.
There are ongoing contacts between my Department and the Civil Aviation Administration of China. The Irish airports and Tourism Ireland also have attractive incentive and marketing programmes available to help support new services.
Last week, Tourism Ireland led a five-day sales mission to China. A delegation of 14 tourism enterprises from the island of Ireland took part in the targeted travel trade mission in a bid to increase our share of this rapidly growing tourism market. Initiatives such as this help to raise Ireland's profile with the Chinese travel trade and population more generally and I hope that airlines will see the potential demand for services increase as a result and be encouraged to establish new direct routes.