The Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Brian Cowen T.D. will visit Japan and the People's Republic of China from 20-25 January.

While in Tokyo, the Minister will represent Ireland at the Ministerial-level Conference on Reconstruction Assistance to Afghanistan, in Tokyo. This will be opened by Japanese Prime Minister Koizumi and UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan. The Minister is expected to hold a series of high-level bilateral meetings, including with representatives of the Afghanistan Interim Authority.

In 2001, Ireland contributed over 5m in humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan and is ready to make further assistance available to the most vulnerable section of the Afghan population. The Minister will announce a substantial pledge of assistance for the reconstruction of Afghanistan at the Conference.

The Minister will make an official visit to China at the invitation of Foreign Minister Tang Jiaxuan, with whom he will discuss international and regional political issues, in particular Afghanistan and Kashmir, our shared membership of the UN Security Council, human rights and issues of bilateral economic cooperation. He will also call on the Premier of the State Council Zhu Rongji, who visited Ireland last September.

In announcing the visit, the Minister emphasised that:

“My visit to Japan and China presents an extremely valuable opportunity for high level political and economic contact with Asian counterparts in this region of major geostrategic and economic importance.

For information of editors:

This first visit by the Minister will have a strong economic focus, in keeping with the Asia Strategy, which was launched after the very successful trade mission led by the Taoiseach to China in September 1998.

Japan is Ireland's largest trading partner in Asia and in Tokyo the Minister will address a gathering of leading business executives on Monday 21 January. China, including Hong Kong, is at present Ireland's 4th largest trading partner in Asia. Our exports have been growing very rapidly and Chinese accession to the WTO will greatly enhance the opportunities for Irish business. The Minister will open Iona Technology's new office in Beijing. He will be present at the signature of a contract between the Irish power company, PCAS Holdings Ltd. and Beijing Kangde Group and also of a Cooperation Agreement at the signature of a cooperation agreement between Carlow Institute for Technology and the Sea Rich International College in Dalian. His stay in Shanghai will also have an economic focus and will include a visit to the Pudong Software Development Centre, with a view to exploring the opportunities for increased business cooperation. The Minister will visit the Consulate-General in Shanghai (opened in May 2000) which is spearheading economic and business links with the eastern coastal region of China.

While in Beijing, Minister Cowen will hold meetings with the Heads of Irish diplomatic Missions resident in Asia and with representatives of the semi-State Agencies and the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment. These meetings will focus on evaluating the implementation of the Government's Asia Strategy and on making recommendations for strengthening and improving the effectiveness of the Government's promotional efforts in the region through the network of diplomatic Missions and the offices of semi-State Agencies.Top

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