Economy Minister Simon Hamilton MLA has said Northern Ireland must become more forward thinking and outward looking as it looks to seize the opportunities presented by the UK exiting the European Union.
The Minister has said he intends to develop a new International Trade Plan and to set up a new Air Routes Task Force for Northern Ireland.
The International Trade Plan will include:
- a new Trade Advisory Board drawing together some of our best business leaders to provide assistance to the Minister and Invest NI as they look to the world for new trade links;
- the appointment of Northern Ireland Trade Ambassadors, utilising the untapped power of our diaspora to assist us in our efforts to open up new opportunities, especially in emerging markets;
- the expansion of Invest NI's international presence in up to 10 more locations around the world by the end of next year; and
- the creation of new trade, investment and innovation hubs in key global markets.
Commenting, Simon Hamilton said: “Winning in an increasingly competitive global economy isn't easy. We can't sit back and expect success. We need to stand up and sell ourselves because no one else will.
“In the same way we have become the best performing region in the UK for attracting inward investment, so we must too aspire to become an outward looking region that trades with the world. We must bring the exact same focus to expanding our exports as we have to attracting inward investment.
“If we are to seize the opportunities that this exciting new era that the United Kingdom is entering presents, then Northern Ireland must become more forward thinking and outward looking. And that means, in no small part, a renewed and redoubled emphasis on international trade.”
The Minister added: “By concentrating on developing new trade opportunities we are building on solid foundations. Northern Ireland was the only part of our United Kingdom to increase exports last year.
“Our companies produce high quality goods that can compete with the best anywhere in the world. It's my job to help open doors for our local firms in existing and emerging markets.
“Why shouldn't we be proud of what we make in Northern Ireland and pursue an assertive international trade policy? We build aircraft wings in Belfast. London buses in Ballymena. Quarrying equipment in Tyrone. And airline seats in Kilkeel.
“We can compete and, most importantly, we can win and I want to help our companies to sell their goods to every part of the planet.”
Simon Hamilton continued: “I have already introduced a new Trade Accelerator Plan which aims to build on our recent export success as well as encouraging more first time exporters. But I want to go further.
“I will develop a new International Trade Plan for Northern Ireland which will establish a new Trade Advisory Board, appoint Northern Ireland Trade Ambassadors, expand Invest NI's international presence in up to 10 more locations by the end of next year and create new trade, investment and innovation hubs in key global markets.
“I am determined to work side by side with local industry as we make Northern Ireland a confident, outward looking trading nation.”
The Economy Minister also announced his intention to set up a new Air Routes Task Force to help him devise new policies and interventions to improve Northern Ireland’s air connectivity.
Simon Hamilton said: “Competing globally isn't just about making Northern Ireland an attractive destination for investment. It's also about making us attractive destination for visitors. We've always known that we live in one of the most beautiful places on the planet. We might not have the warmest weather but our people offer a warm welcome. More people from every corner of the globe are realising that Northern Ireland is a must-see destination.
“Bringing more people to these shores requires better air connections. Let's be honest, we've struggled to secure and maintain air routes to key cities and markets. I'm not satisfied with sitting back and saying that because we are small we can't sustain air routes to places like the US, Canada and the Middle East as well as hubs around Europe.”
The Minister concluded: “I want us to aggressively pursue new routes that will help us attract tourists and boost our international trade links.
“To assist me, I'm establishing a new Air Routes Task Force. Its job will be to help me to develop a range of policies and interventions that we can utilise to open up new connections.
“Waiting for new air routes to just arrive isn't going to work. We need to see our airports as strategic assets for our economy and work with them to take Northern Ireland business to the world.”
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