A new agreement to formalise a new strong working relationship between Derry and Strabane and the City of Dalian in China has been signed.
The partnership was one of the highlights of a delegation from the North West during a visit to China last week.
Led by the Mayor of Derry City and Strabane District Council Colr Maolíosa McHugh, the delegation met with the British and Irish Ambassadors, visited the Dalian Urban Planning Center, the Dalian Vocational and Technical College, the city’s High-tech Zone, Dalian Municipal Government and the Dalian University of Finance and Economics.
Speaking on his return, the Mayor described the China visit as hugely significant and beneficial to the city and region.
“It was a truly remarkable experience and a very worthwhile visit for everyone involved,” he said. “We had the opportunity to meet with key influencers in the tourism, technology and education sectors. We were also very pleased to receive generate significant media interest in China including headlining the Regional News programme with an audience of 7m people.
“It was a hugely significant visit and a number of very important connections were made which I am confident the Council and its partners, the Ulster University and North West Regional College, will continue to pursue for the mutual benefit of both cities.”
The visit was organised in partnership with the NI Bureau in China and the Dalian Foreign Affairs just months after the civic and political representatives welcomed Chinese Provincial and Municipal leaders who were visiting Northern Ireland for the UK-China Regional Leaders’ Summit organised by the NI Bureau in Bejing.
Mayor Maolíosa McHugh hosted a special reception for the delegation representing the City of Dalian, during that visit, where an invitation was extended by the Dalian delegation to the Mayor to travel to China to continue the very positive discussions that took place.
Based in North East China, the City of Dalian is a global financial centre with a population of over 6.5million.
The city specialises in the Financial and IT sectors, and is home to some of the major players in these industries including Oracle, IBM and CISCO. The delegation during their visit got a chance to hear at first-hand about their developments in the software industry, bio-medicine, digitalisation, marine engineering and advanced manufacturing.
Mayor McHugh said that Derry and Dalian have a lot in common and the delegation were very confident that the visit will bring positive connections and links between the two cities.
“The signing of the Friendly Co-operative Cities Relationship Agreement is significant in that it formalises the co-operation and links with both cities and provides us with a formal platform for which to showcase our assets in a number of sectors including tourism, education and technology. We are confident that this agreement will help encourage more tourists, international students and investment to our city and region.”
He added that the visit is part of the Council’s ongoing commitment set out in its Strategic Growth Plan to showcase our education and skills base and promote our entrepreneurship and advanced digital industries.
He concluded: “Turning our attentions to the East is a key part of our outreach to foreign direct investors and to target growth in China. This visit, in addition to the excellent work we are doing to establish strong international links with the City of London, Boston and Philadephia, is evidence of our ongoing commitment and determination to form strong, international relations that will benefit our city and region for the future.”
Dr Malachy Ó Néill, Ulster University Provost of the Magee campus commented; “The delegation visit to China was a great success and timely for Ulster University as we embark on ambitious plans to double our international students, with China a priority growth market.
“The signing of the Co-operative City Agreement with Dalian puts the Magee campus at the forefront of the minds of global education leaders and gives us a platform to showcase our world class teaching and research, innovative facilities and the impact of our international partnerships.
“The response from our counterparts in Dalian was very encouraging, and the synergies between Magee and our strategic higher education partner Dongbei University of Finance and Economics in the areas of competitiveness and entrepreneurship were evident throughout the visit.”