Northern Ireland companies seek business opportunities in Latvia and Estonia

Over ten companies are taking part on an Invest Northern Ireland trade mission to Latvia and Estonia next week (20-25 March).

During the mission, the group will be based in Riga and Tallinn but companies will focus on specific areas of opportunity for their business.

The growing economy provides many interesting opportunities for Northern Ireland companies, ranging from servicing the growing domestic demand, to large scale EU projects which are being rolled out across the Baltic region.

The trade mission will be led by Dr Gerard O’Hare CBE, a well-known and leading Northern Ireland businessman, who is the Honorary Consul of the Republic of Latvia in Northern Ireland.

Dr O’Hare said: “Estonia and Latvia have much in common with Northern Ireland. Both are compact economies driven by small and medium sized companies, which makes doing business there easier than in larger EU nations. They also share our geographic position on the periphery of Europe. These features make companies there ideal partners for Northern Ireland exporters. Both nations also have longstanding relationships with Russia, a much larger neighbour.

“Estonia and Latvia are now market-driven economies which offer Northern Ireland companies a range of business opportunities particularly in construction and civil engineering as a result of measures underway to improve their infrastructure. In addition, both nations are keen to develop expertise in key technology areas such as ICT and life sciences, two successful industries in Northern Ireland. Overall, I am convinced that Estonia and Latvia offer extensive business opportunities for our companies.”

The delegation includes companies such as FG Wilson of Larne and Randalstown’s Contact Marketing (NI) Ltd, which are already doing business in the Baltic region. The University of Ulster is also participating in the mission.

The trade mission is part of Invest NI’s extensive 2011/12 market visits programme which includes visits to developing markets within Europe, such as the Baltic region. Further missions are planned for the Baltic region along with missions to Slovenia, Hungary, Turkey, Romania and Bulgaria.

Dr Vicky Kell, Invest NI Trade Director, commenting on the mission, said: “Our research shows that there are opportunities in the Baltic States for our companies across a very broad range of industries including transport infrastructure, energy and environmental, life sciences and healthcare, and ICT.

“In recent years the Baltic region as a whole was the fastest growing region in the EU with the economies enjoying double-digit GDP growth rates. However, similar to other regions of the EU, it did not escape the economic downturn, but is demonstrating good signs of recovery and is now again experiencing positive growth.

“Both Latvia and Estonia have open and flexible economies, well-developed infrastructure, ongoing substantial EU funding programmes, as well as membership in the EU, World Trade Organisation (WTO) and North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATA), making them safe and viable markets in which to conduct business.  

“Our business links with both countries have been developing steadily over the past 20 years with a number of Northern Ireland companies establishing strong positions in both markets. Companies taking part in the mission have been helped by Invest NI to pinpoint opportunities in both markets and programmes of meetings have been set up for delegates with potential customers and strategic partners.”