Local companies could tap into a rich mine of opportunity when they take part in an Invest Northern Ireland trade mission this week to Hungary and Romania, countries with emerging markets that offer significant export prospects.

Hungary, currently an associate member of the European Union and set to become a full member next May, imported some £7.5 million of goods from Northern Ireland last year. With economic forecasters predicting a sustained period of economic growth for the country in the next few years, local companies are being urged to investigate export or investment opportunities there.

Twelve companies are taking part in the trade mission which runs from 8 to 13 June beginning in Romania, the second largest consumer market in central and eastern Europe, and then moving to Hungary.

The participating companies represent a wide range of sectors including engineering, construction, foods, furniture and electronics and during the trade mission will be meeting with potential customers in both countries.

Alan Hingston, Invest NI’s Director of Trade, comments: “This is a good time for local companies to be exploring opportunities in Hungary and Romania since both these countries are enjoying steady economic growth.

“Many of the companies taking part in this trade mission are investigating these markets for the first time, while others, such as the McAvoy Group, are building on contacts and alliances already in place.”

“Trade missions are a very practical way of introducing Northern Ireland companies to new markets and in the past have generated many sales prospects for participating companies. We’re confident that this trade mission will deliver real benefit to the companies taking part,” says Alan Hingston.

The ten countries which are scheduled to join the European Union in May 2004 are Hungary, Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Slovenia, Cyprus, Malta, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. Romania is scheduled to join in 2007.

The companies taking part in the trade mission are:

F G Wilson – Larne
RFD Ltd – Dunmurry
Dunlop Design Engineering Ltd – Tandragee
Charles Brand, Lagan Holdings – Belfast
McAvoy Group – Dungannon
Louise Products – Muckamore, Antrim
CWP Contract Furniture – Limavady
Box architects – Belfast
Nitronica Ltd – Ballynahinch
Handel Consulting – Belfast
Market Growth International - Craigavon
Blue Autumn- Newtownards