Foster: Exports hold key to economic growth

Improving competitiveness through a focus on export-led economic growth is the key to increasing employment and prosperity, Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster told business leaders tonight.

Addressing guests at the NI Chamber of Commerce President’s Banquet, the Minister said she wanted to see Northern Ireland become a UK region with a strong global outlook.

Arlene Foster said: “Too many of our exporters have historically relied on near markets such as the Republic of Ireland or Great Britain. Whilst these are important, we need to extend our reach and take advantage of the many opportunities that exist across the globe.

“Invest Northern Ireland works hard to increase our export base and has a full range of measures to help companies increase their sales abroad, not least through a comprehensive programme of trade missions and exhibitions. Along with the First Minister and deputy First Minister, I recently had the privilege of supporting local companies on trade missions to the United Arab Emirates and India, and most recently, China.

“There are already many success stories for local companies from these emerging markets and we must continue to build on these by innovating and bringing new products to the global market.”

Turning to corporation tax, Arlene Foster repeated her belief that a reduction would provide a major stimulus to the local economy: “The Prime Minister now has the report and, in light of the continued challenges faced by the local business community, it is essential that the Government makes its decision as soon as possible.”

The Minister went on to outline steps being taken to support business and create jobs in the aftermath of the recession, including the Executive’s £200million Economy and Jobs Initiative.

Arlene Foster said: “This new stimulus package is designed to boost our economy and provide employment opportunities, particularly for our young people and those who have been out of work for long periods. We know only too well that the construction sector has been hit hard by the recession and this initiative includes provision of more than £40million to deliver a range of projects in the current financial year which will support the construction sector.”

Other measures introduced in response to the economic downturn include a £100million Access to Finance Initiative to ensure companies with high growth potential are not held back because they cannot access funds. In addition, Invest NI’s Boosting Business and the Jobs Fund are already having a positive impact.

The Minister added: “Significant steps have already been taken on the road to rebalancing and rebuilding our economy, with a view to increasing employment and prosperity for all. We are facing significant challenges, but I am confident that with everyone working together, we can achieve our key objectives.”