Lord Mayor of Dublin encourages Chinese investment
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Lord Mayor of Dublin encourages Chinese investment

In an interview with Euromoney, the Lord Mayor of Dublin expresses his interest in Chinese investment to return Irish banks to the private sector.

The city of Dublin would welcome Chinese bids to acquire Irish banks if they were to take the institutions out of state hands, says the Lord Mayor of Dublin Naoise Ó Muirí. “State ownership in banking needs to be reversed," he says. "With the state of the country’s finances, realistically the only way this will happen is if international investors buy up state-run Irish banks. They will need to go institution by institution until all banks are out of the state’s hands.”

Since the financial crisis hit in 2008, Irish banks have received five bailouts from the European Union and the IMF. As a result, all six of the nation’s financial institutions – Bank of Ireland, Allied Irish Bank, Irish Life & Permanent, EBS Building Society, Anglo Irish Bank and Irish Nationwide – are fully or partially state-owned.

“Anything that removes state intervention from the banking sectorand pumps fresh funds into the system will be welcomed in Dublin," says the Lord Mayor. "We would welcome bids by the Chinese to buy out Irish banks. In this respect, we go against the grain.”

Anti-western, particularly anti-American, sentiment towards Chinese investment is rife. In a report published on October 8, the US House Intelligence Committee stated that two Chinese telecommunications-equipment suppliers, Huawei and ZTE, could undermine US national-security interests, and recommended that mergers and acquisitions involving the firms be blocked.

Moreover, plans by state-owned China National Offshore Oil Corporation to acquire Canadian oil company Nexenfor $15.1 billion has come under fire after a backlash from Canada's main opposition party the New Democrats Party, which vowed to veto the deal in parliament. Some US and Canadian officials have branded the deal as a substantial threat to national security.

Despite anti-US sentiment, building cultural and commercial ties with Beijing is still high on Dublin’s agenda.

In 2010, Dublin city was twinned with Beijing. The then Lord Mayor Gerry Breen said at the time: “The symbolic act of friendship will create a positive climate of confidence and enthusiasm and lead to real business being done between Ireland and China.”

The World Tourism Cities Federation, where cities share practices and experience, met in Beijing last month, and it was an opportunity for Dublin to share tricks-of-the-tourism trade with Beijing. Tourism will be an ever more important industry in Beijing and the rest of China as export growth slows and China seeks to take advantage of the burgeoning middle classes in Asia.

Dublin is also working on a joint internship programme for civil servants with Beijing, and is pushing for the municipality to have its own float at the annual St Patrick’s Day parade in Dublin.

“Cultural ties are a stepping stone to creating commercial ties with a city and this is definitely worth pursuing with Beijing,” says the Lord Mayor.

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