15/06/2005

Belfast signs 'sister city' agreement with Hefei

Belfast City Council has signed an historic ‘Sister Cities’ agreement with the Chinese city of Hefei.

The agreement, which is the culmination of an eight-year relationship fostered by Belfast City Council, was signed during a two-day visit by a senior delegation from Hefei, led by the city’s Mayor, Mr Guo Wanqing.

It is expected that the sister city relationship will help strengthen civic, commercial and cultural ties between Belfast and Hefei.

Ahead of the signing, Councillor Michael Browne, Chairman of the Council’s Economic Development Sub-Committee, said: “We have been working hard to forge relationships with China for the last eight years, as there can be absolutely no doubt that China represents a massive opportunity for local businesses.

“It is our objective to enable local companies to use our relationship with Hefei to minimise the legal and regulatory obstacles to the Chinese market."

The agreement will aim to foster a partnership on a range of issues of mutual benefit and interest, including business development and investment, education and training. It also will help strengthen links between the Council and the city’s Chinese community in Northern Ireland.

Recognising the importance of China in the global economy, Belfast City Council began developing links with the world’s largest emerging market in 1997, undertaking its first formal visit to Hefei three years later. Following the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding in August 2000, the two cities have now taken their relationship to the next, most formal level, with the signing of a ‘Sister Cities Agreement’.

During the visit, the seven-strong delegation from Hefei will attend a range of briefings and seminars, and meet representatives of Belfast City Council, Investment Belfast, Invest NI, the city’s education sector, the Chinese Chamber of Commerce and the Chinese Welfare Association.

The delegation also will visit Delta Packaging, the first local company to establish a joint venture in China.

Later this year, the Council will be launching an export development programme for local companies seeking to do business in China.

(SP/MB)

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