(Updates with minister’s comments in sixth paragraph, Xi’s in seventh and Riverdance show in penultimate paragraph.)
Feb. 20 (Bloomberg) -- “Your Excellency, we will be calling this calf after yourself,” farmer James Lynch told Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping yesterday, during a visit to his family farm in southwest Ireland when Xi was presented with a newly born heifer.
Xi, who landed in Ireland Feb. 18, laughed and asked when the newly-born calf would produce milk. “Please god, this time two years,” Lynch said.
The vice president, who was entertained to a medieval-style banquet by Irish Foreign Minister Eamon Gilmore Feb. 18, met Lynch’s mother Anne, his wife Maura and their three young children at their home. He walked around the farm, rubbing shoulders with locals and Irish farming officials as Lynch explained how milk produced at his farm is processed at a farmer-owned cooperative and exported in part as baby food to China.
Addressing Xi, Lynch expressed in part the hopes the Irish have had for Xi’s tour as the bailed-out country targets jobs from increased trade and investment.
“Your Excellency, this morning the grass was white from frost, and after you coming all the way to see the Irish green,” Lynch said, pointing to melting frost on the grass, “The sun is now bringing the green up. You bring the sun.”
Boosting investment and trade with countries like China is a “crucial part” of the Irish government’s plan to create new jobs, Enterprise Minister Richard Bruton said in a statement. Bruton yesterday signed agreements with his Chinese counterpart Gao Hucheng to promote both.
Xi told Irish leaders at an event yesterday that China is “considering more involvement in helping address the European debt issue” in a translated speech, aired by Dublin-based broadcaster RTE today. Xi said Ireland’s ability to generate growth “shored up the confidence of various parties” involved in dealing with the debt crisis.
‘Helpful to Europe’
Xi was “generally supportive about wishing to be helpful to Europe and wishing to be helpful in particular to Ireland,” Foreign Minister Gilmore told reporters after a meeting with Xi, who is likely to succeed incumbent Chinese President Hu Jintao.
After the collapse of Ireland’s property bubble, Ireland’s government is renewing its focus on exports and jobs in agriculture where some of its companies such as Kerry Group Plc and Glanbia Plc are global suppliers.
Ireland produces enough food for more than 10 times its population and plans to “rapidly expand” dairy production after European milk quotas are abolished in two years, Irish Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney said in an interview on the Lynch family farm.
“Ireland has a very strong agricultural and farming sector and it enjoys a high reputation, and that is why I have cherished the hope of visiting one of the farms here and this has truly been very impressive,” Xi said. “You have a well- balanced structure of economy and despite the impact of the international financial crisis, because of the rural economy, you are able to weather the crisis fairly well.”
Later Xi yesterday visited Croke Park in Dublin to see an exhibition of Gaelic Football and hurling, an Irish sport similar to field hockey. After the exhibition, Xi took to the field where he kicked a ball in the air and pucked a small ball called a sliotar, with a wooden hurley.
His last engagement was a private performance of Riverdance, loosely based on the experience of hard times in Ireland and Irish experiences on migrating to the U.S. The show, popular worldwide including in China, includes a mix of Irish dancing, Spanish flamenco and African-American tap-dancing. Xi greeted the dancers on the stage with Prime Minister Enda Kenny after the two hour performance.
Xi today is scheduled to visit the Irish parliament, meet President Michael D. Higgins and attend a trade and investment forum in Dublin before leaving for Turkey.
--Editors: Chris Peterson, Alan Purkiss
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