Look to new export markets

Seizing opportunities in developing markets could help Northern Ireland companies combat the economic downturn.

That was the message from the Economy Minister, Arlene Foster today at the first council meeting of the Northern Ireland Exporters Association, (NIEA) in Belfast.

Speaking at the NIEA meeting, the minister said: “While many established markets, such as the US and Europe, are facing an increasing slowdown, opportunities are continuing to grow in regions such as the Arabian Gulf, India and China. Growth in Saudi Arabia is creating a broad range of opportunities for Northern Ireland companies in sectors from construction to ICT and consumer goods.

“India, where Invest Northern Ireland now has a trade and investment office, is continuing to experience GDP growth in excess of nine per cent and has huge infrastructural development projects in the pipeline.”

GDP growth in Saudi is expected to reach almost six per cent this year and the nation already has a record revenues surplus. Economic experts predict that growth in India will continue at around nine per cent per annum over the next five years. While experts project the Chinese economy will cool over the next year, there is still a forecast of GDP growth of around nine per cent.

"The impressive growth figures in these regions means there is tremendous scope for ambitious and progressive Northern Ireland companies to sell their products and services in such buoyant markets,” the minister added.

Mr Bill McGinnis, Chairman of the McAvoy Group, Dungannon, the off-site construction business, was elected Chairman of NIEA at today’s meeting. Mr McGinnis said: “As a private sector-led body that includes many of our leading exporters, NIEA can play a pivotal role in helping many more smaller companies in particular to look beyond current economic difficulties and seek growth abroad.

“NIEA represents the whole spectrum of companies within the export industry including SMEs taking their first steps in international trade, multinationals exporting their products and services worldwide, as well as export service providers.”

Arlene Foster continued: “One of Government’s key objectives is to see a strengthening of the private sector and the creation of greater wealth across Northern Ireland through a substantial increase in export sales of higher added-value products and services.

“Invest NI has developed an extensive calendar of overseas trade missions and exhibitions that enable companies to both explore and exploit new business opportunities overseas. Programmes such as An Introduction to Exports, Preparing for Export and International Partnerships help newcomers, as well as established exporters, to build the necessary capability to ensure profitable growth in the global marketplace.”

The minister concluded: "Companies have everything to gain and nothing to lose by taking advantage of these capability programmes and initiatives overseas. They offer a low-cost, low-risk route to successful and profitable growth.”

NIEA is part of the Irish Exporters Association and membership is open to anyone involved in international trade. The organisation provides access to a range of expert service, guidance and international business networks.