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Interview with Ambassador of Ireland to the People’s Republic of China, Ann Derwin on the Hainan Expo and FTP

The first thing that struck the Ambassador of Ireland to the People’s Republic of China, Ann Derwin, on her first trip to Hainan was just how beautiful the island is. This is the first time the China International Consumer Products Expo was held in Hainan and the ambassador was here to support it.

There are many similarities between Hainan Island and Ireland, both are islands that trade globally and the importance of free trade zones is well understood.

The Shannon Free Zone in Ireland was established in 1959 and is regarded as the world’s first modern free trade zone. At the time, Shannon’s success depended on transatlantic flights stopping to refuel there.

But advances in aeronautic technology meant that those days were numbered as commercial aircraft would soon have the range to bypass the airport.

The Shannon Free Zone was set up to attract investment and create employment in exchange for tax incentives and tariff reductions. While many of these incentives have since ceased, as of 2019, there were reportedly over 100 international firms employing over 8,000 people based at the Shannon Free Zone and it is considered to have been hugely successful.

According to the ambassador, the development of the free trade zone here in Hainan is a very exciting opportunity, it’s ambitious and also very strategic. The potential for growth here is significant.

It’s believed that Ireland’s industry and Hainan’s growth development plans complement each other, especially in the areas of science, high-tech, agri-food produce, pharmaceuticals, med-tech and education.

Currently a lot of Irish companies export to China, Ireland is known internationally for its natural, science based, high quality produce and they do well in the Chinese market.

Irish whiskey is one such product that’s becoming increasingly popular here with many new brands entering the market. At the Hainan Expo, five new whiskey brands, all with interesting narratives and flavours were promoted, highlighting the variety and diversity of Ireland’s produce. In 2019 record numbers of Chinese tourists visited the island of Ireland experiencing the warmth and hospitality of the emerald isle.

It’s hoped that, after the pandemic is over, direct flights between Ireland and China are restored and visitors from both countries are free, to once again, travel and experience each other’s culture and hospitality. 

Related article: Economic performance of Hainan Province in the first quarter, 2021

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