Following the Regional Leaders Summit in Belfast at the weekend Newry & Armagh MLA Conor Murphy has said that there is a great potential for the Newry, Mourne & Down Council area to develop, trade, investment, cultural and education links with China.

The MLA who met with Chinese Consul Madam Wang and other senior Chinese officials, has been involved with exploring the potential of developing a "City Connection" with a City in China and he has urged Newry, Mourne & Down Council to "seize the moment"

Newry & Armagh MLA Conor Murphy speaks with Chinese Consul Madam Wang at the Regional Leaders Summit in Belfast
Newry & Armagh MLA Conor Murphy speaks with Chinese Consul Madam Wang at the Regional Leaders Summit in Belfast

Mr Murphy explained "My late colleague deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness had been instrumental in developing a strong and increasingly positive relationship and bond with partners in China. In April 2012, Vice-Premier Madame Liu Yandong visited Belfast and launched the Confucius Institute which has flourished and developed remarkablyand in June 2015 China established its own Consulate in Belfast.Invest NI has established Offices in Beijing and Shanghai. Along with the Executive Bureau in Beijing, thus representing a long term commitment  to develop and grow our relationship with China.

"I believe that Newry Mourne and Down now has the opportunity to become involved in partnerships  with China which will help create jobs, promote prosperity and at the same time promote mutual understanding of our different cultures".

The Newry & Armagh Elected representative continued

"The Executive Bureau have already assisted both Belfast and Derry & Strabane Councils in establishing links with major Chinese cities so I have been working with them for some time to explore similar opportunities for Newry Mourne & Down. I have informed the Council that the region of Changchun in China is keen to explore a partner with this area. Changchun is the capital of northeast China's Jilin province."

According to the 2010 census of China, Changchun had a total population of 7,674,439 under its jurisdiction.

Known locally as China's "City of Automobiles",Changchun is an important industrial base with a particular focus on the automotive sector. Because of its key role in the domestic automobile industry, Changchun was sometimes referred to as the "Detroit of China." Apart from this industrial aspect, Changchun is also one of four "National Garden Cities" awarded by the Ministry of Construction of P.R. China in 2001 due to its high urban greening rate".

He stated his belief that the Council should explore areas for cooperation.

"I believe at this early stage the Council should agree to explore areas for cooperation and mutual benifit which should then lead to a formal agreement.

There in particular is a keen interest from Changchun  to investigate partnerships in Life & Health Sciences and Agriculture.

The Sinn Féin MLA concluded by saying that he believed their was exciting potential for this coming together to create jobs and promote prosperity.

"Companies from across this Island see that the great  potential for them to prosper in the Chinise markets is endless.

"Chinese companies see Ireland  as a natural base for expanding into the wider European, African and Middle East markets.

"The groundwork has been done and now  I hope that Newry Mourne & Down Council will grasp this opportunity and take a lead in developing and growing a relationship not only with Changchun but with China."