TOO many businesses are still missing out on the growth potential presented by exports, Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster said yesterday.
Speaking at a major seminar in Belfast organised by Hong Kong Development Council and UK Trade and Investment, the minister renewed the call for local companies to grasp the relevant business opportunities and export their goods and services to the China-Hong Kong region.
Encouraging business leaders at the Invest Northern Ireland-hosted event to drive exports beyond last year’s £45 million total, Mrs Foster said: “China and other fast-growing Asian economies are increasingly important to Northern Ireland if we are to boost our exports.
“I believe that the demand for local products and services exists around the world but too many businesses are missing out on these opportunities, especially in emerging markets.
“The focus on high-growth markets such as China is an integral part of the Executive’s strategy to transform Northern Ireland into a vibrant, private sector-led economy.
“Our domestic market is too small to drive the private sector growth required to make a step change in our economy.”
Too many exporters, she added, have historically relied on near markets such as the Republic of Ireland or Great Britain.
“We need to extend our reach and take advantage of the many opportunities that exist across the globe.”
Highlighting a forthcoming trade mission to Beijing, Shanghai and Kuala Lumpur, Mrs Foster said: “As we look to sell more overseas, we want to ensure businesses have the support they need to realise their full potential.
“That is why Invest NI has trade advisors based in the China Hong Kong region to support Northern Ireland businesses by undertaking market research and helping to identify potential agents or distributors.
“Invest NI also promote a trade programme, which targets the region with company delegations a number of times a year, and a trade mission is planned for November.
“With that specialist Invest NI support, and the local knowledge available from the Hong Kong Trade Development Council, Northern Ireland is well placed to target Hong Kong and the greater China market.”
Pointing up the achievements of local companies in the market, including White’s Speedicook in Tandragee, Tyrone’s Fivemiletown Creamery and Dunbia in Dungannon, she said many local businesses were already spreading their wings.
“Our food sector is already well represented in Hong Kong and four seafood companies were there just a few weeks ago to visit the Asian Seafood Show and explore opportunities to develop their export sales.
“We also export a broad range of products and services to China, from software and scientific cameras to diagnostic systems and printing technology. During my visit to Hong Kong last year it was hard not to notice the distinctive double decker buses on the streets, which were of course manufactured in Ballymena by Wrightbus.
“Clearly, huge business opportunities exist, and our success to date should encourage other local companies, both large and small, to explore the exciting opportunities which are emerging in this global market.”