SHANGHAI — Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny arrived in China for a four-day trade mission on Sunday, one month after the Asian giant’s leader-in-waiting paid a visit to Dublin and vowed support for the eurozone. Kenny touched down in China’s commercial hub of Shanghai, where he was due to meet business leaders and the city’s mayor, the official Xinhua News Agency reported. Kenny will then head to Beijing for talks with Premier Wen Jiabao and Vice President Xi Jinping, who spent three days in Ireland in late February. Speaking ahead of his departure, Kenny said Ireland had been working hard to boost its image in China as it seeks investment as well as new markets for Irish goods to help the eurozone member emerge from a deep recession. Ireland was forced to seek an 85-billion-euro (US$112 billion) rescue package from the European Union and the International Monetary Fund in November 2010, after debt and deficit problems left the economy on the verge of collapse. “We have greatly appreciated the positive signals from China in support of Europe’s efforts to resolve the sovereign debt crisis” that has also seen Greece and Portugal receive bailout funds, Kenny said. “There is no doubt that this has helped to stabilize financial markets and in the process made it much easier for us in Ireland to address our own problems,” he added. The prime minister will also seek to boost the number of Chinese tourists in Ireland and to increase cultural links between the two nations.
Tourism Ireland, which also represents Northern Ireland in overseas marketing, has already launched an online advertising campaign in China touting the island’s scenery and food. Ireland was the only EU country that Xi visited after touring the United States last month. Although his stop was focused on trade, he also took time to try out Gaelic football and attend a performance of Riverdance. During the tour, Xi said China believed the EU’s economic problems were temporary and that Beijing would continue to support the bloc’s efforts to deal with its debts.