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The Vice President of the United States Joe Biden and Irish leader Enda Kenny meet in Tokyo

Irish leader Enda Kenny meets VP Joe Biden, Caroline Kennedy in Japan

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The Vice President of the United States Joe Biden and Irish leader Enda Kenny meet in Tokyo

Quick-thinking Irish Prime Minister  Enda Kenny seized the opportunity to set up an unscheduled meeting with Joe Biden during his trade mission to Japan yesterday - when he spotted the US Vice President was staying in the same Tokyo hotel.

The pair, along with America's new ambassador to Japan, Caroline Kennedy, enjoyed an informal half-hour breakfast meeting yesterday morning - the first engagement for Biden, who is in Asia to try to resolve a dispute over Chinese airspace and a disputed group of uninhabited islands.

The meeting came towards the end of the Irish leader’s five-day visit to Japan - the highlight of which has been the decision by the Japanese government to lift its 13-year ban on Irish beef.

But he also took the opportunity to hold talks with the US Vice President, who agreed to a meeting after Kenny left him a note in his hotel suite.

Kenny said they discussed the Japanese-European free trade agreement, immigration reform in the US, developments in the EU and the the lifting of Irish beef restrictions in Japan.

The Irish Examiner reports that there were also more light-hearted discussions during the meeting - with the Taoiseach reminding Biden that they had a long-standing "date" to play a round of golf in the west of Ireland.

Later yesterday Kenny met up with Northern Ireland First Minister Peter Robinson and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness, who were also in Japan to hold talks with business representatives and investors.

Kenny also signed a memorandum of understanding involving the IDA, Enterprise Ireland and the Japan External Trade Organisation.

But the most significant development from an Irish perspective was the lifting of the ban on Irish beef and offal to Japan, which had been in place since the BSE outbreak in 2000.

The deal will provide a multi-million euro boost for the beef industry, with Ireland now one of only three EU countries - the others are France and Denmark - allowed to send beef to the Far Eastern nation.

Speaking after the joint announcement with Japan's prime minister Shinzo Abe, Kenny said:  "We reckon this is worth about €15m a year, based on the fact that it was worth €10m in 2000 and we have to rebuild the market.

"Clearly this is of great significance to Ireland and Irish farming. It's been a very satisfactory outcome to a situation where the prime minister himself took a particular and personal interest."

The Irish government is now eyeing up even bigger spoils for the beef industry, as it hopes to secure a deal with China.

A group of experts from the Department of Agriculture are due to hold talks with their Chinese counterparts next week.

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