The visit of China's second-most powerful politician after President Xi Jinping - premier Li Qiang - poses a "great opportunity" to end Irish the ban on Irish beef to China, Asia Matters executive director Martin Murray has said.

Li Qiang meets Taoiseach Leo Varadkar for bilateral talks in Dublin this Wednesday 17 January.

Murray said he is hoping that the resumption of Irish beef exports is high on the agenda when the two leaders meet for a working lunch at Farmleigh House in Dublin.

Beef exports from this country to China were suspended when a case of atypical BSE (mad cow disease) was discovered by Irish veterinary officials two months ago.

The case, in a cow over 10 years old, had not entered the food chain here.

Diplomatic relations

“As we prepare to celebrate 45 years of diplomatic relations between our country and China, I welcome the visit of the Chinese premier to Ireland,” said Murray, whose organisation promotes business and cultural links between Ireland and Asian economies.

“The talks between Mr Varadkar and premier Li Qiang in Dublin will not only be a milestone event to drive business development, they will also provide a great opportunity to re-open the Chinese market to Irish beef," he added.

Irish beef exports to China were worth almost €40m in 2019, Murray said, adding that Irish exports to China had soared to record levels following the last visit to Ireland by a high-ranking Chinese government official.

“China is now Ireland's fourth-largest trade partner, the fifth-largest goods export market and the seventh-largest service export destination,” Mr Murray said.

“Since President Xi was here just over a decade ago, bilateral trade has significantly grown in Ireland’s favour from €3.7bn in 2014 to a record €25.3bn in 2022.

Significant growth

“Irish exports to China have significantly grown to €14bn, with the agri-food sector alone achieving €722m in exports to China in 2022, an increase of 76% over the last decade.”

At an Asia Matters conference in Letterkenny, Co Donegal, last October, secretary general at the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment Declan Hughes revealed that two-way trade between this country and Asia is now worth €120bn.

“Chinese investment in Ireland is almost €10bn and has created 5,000 quality jobs, with Tik Tok alone employing almost 3,000 people,” Murray added.

Premier Li will visit Ireland after speaking at the opening ceremony of the World Economic Forum at Davos in Switzerland.

He will be the first high-ranking Chinese government official to attend the annual gathering since President Xi in 2017.