Trade Minister, Arlene Foster, forged new and existing trade links with the Netherlands during the second annual dinner of the Northern Ireland-Netherlands Trade, (NI-NL) and Export Society.
NI-NL is a not for profit organisation which is a forum and platform for companies and professionals active, or who wish to be active, in trade between Northern Ireland and the Netherlands.
NI-NL was formed in 2006 by Invest NI, Lisburn City Council and Northern Ireland Trade Consultants to develop partnerships in trade, enterprise and investment between Northern Ireland and The Netherlands.
Before the dinner Minister Arlene Foster and the Dutch Foreign Trade Minister, Frank Heemskerk met to discuss business between their two countries. Arlene Foster said: “We had a very productive meeting on how we can work together to improve business between Northern Ireland and the Netherlands, to help both economies grow at this time of global economic difficulties.”
Over 150 guests attended the dinner including representatives from Northern Ireland and Dutch companies, the Northern Ireland and Dutch Government and business influencers.
Speaking at the dinner Arlene Foster said: “Northern Ireland and The Netherlands have a long established trading tradition. The Netherlands is now the fourth most important European market for our manufacturers after the Republic of Ireland, Germany and France.
“Customers in The Netherlands purchased goods worth £145million in 2007/08, which is 10% of our total exports to markets in continental Europe.”
Recognising the success of the NI-NL the Minister said: “Partnership initiatives by business bodies such as the NI-NL Trade and Export Society are extremely important because they offer extensive networking opportunities that promote friendships and trade contacts.
"The business links, already developed with The Netherlands, have never been stronger, following the success of Invest NI’s ‘Going Dutch’ programme. The programme assisted Northern Ireland companies to build mutually beneficial business relationships with companies in the Netherlands, resulting in increased exports and trade links. It is now one of Invest NI’s most successful trade initiatives.”
The Minister also highlighted the benefits of sharing initiatives between the two countries and said: “In 2004 The Netherlands pioneered an Innovation Voucher Initiative for small businesses. In May 2008 Northern Ireland launched a similar Innovation Voucher Initiative and representatives of the Dutch SME Knowledge Network attended the event to share their experiences and successes of the scheme in the Netherlands.”
Addressing the current global economic downturn Arlene Foster continued: “Tough markets happen but good companies that focus on customer driven innovation can get stronger in bad times and succeed in international markets, emerging stronger and more competitive in the longer term.”
“I look forward to continued trade success between Northern Ireland and the Netherlands and I want to encourage and support a great many more of our companies to explore business in open markets such as The Netherlands, building mutually beneficial business relationships.”