China is expected to become Ireland's fourth biggest trading partner by 2030, overtaking France and knocking Japan out of the top five.

That is according to HSBC Bank's latest Global Connections trade report for Ireland. The bank predicted that exports to China will grow by 11% a year during 2016 to 2030.

The bank also expects that the Irish export market will remain dominated by the UK, the US and Germany but that the main growth areas lie in emerging Asian countries.

It predicts that India and Vietnam will grow in importance at the expense of our traditional trading partners with Malaysia and Indonesia becoming increasingly important too.

Today's report suggests that exports to the main markets in Europe - excluding Russia - are forecast to grow by about 3% a year from 2013 to 2015.

But they should then pick up to about 4% in 2016 to 2020.

Exports to Asia, excluding Japan, and North America are also expected to speed up in the four years form 2016 to 2020.

HSBC says that Ireland's main export strength in the coming years will be in chemicals, pharmaceuticals, scientific apparatus and ICT equipment.

“Exports continue to play a key role in Ireland’s GDP growth and whilst our traditional export markets remain vital to this, it is increasingly important to look beyond them,'' said Alan Duffy, Managing Director and Ireland Head of HSBC Corporate Banking.

''Emerging markets are developing at a phenomenal pace and are set to reshape world trade patterns over the next 20 years. Understanding which sectors are growing in which markets delivers huge opportunities for businesses as they plan for the future and aim to capitalise on these trends,'' he added.