Last week in the Assembly we discussed the importance of growing our economy through increasing the number of exporters and the value of exports from Northern Ireland to the rest of the world.
An increase in exports leads to increased sales, increased growth, increased profits, it helps to spread risks that businesses may face and helps companies with competitiveness and innovation.
No one can doubt that exports and indeed all externals sales are anything other than positive and beneficial for the NI economy.
There has been a lot of good news for Northern Ireland in this area recently. In 2015, there was a 9.5% increase in NI exports from the previous year, while England, Scotland and Wales all experienced a decrease in exports during the same time period.
Whilst these figures for Northern Ireland are encouraging and signify that the Executive’s strategy is working, we must not be complacent, nor content with the current position.
There is still huge potential for growth and it is that momentum the executive will continue to build on.
We can do this in two key ways. First we need to relentlessly target those sectors where we are strong and competitive or have the potential to be strong and competitive in a global market. We need to continue to focus areas where such growth can continue and build in areas where there is further potential for expansion .
Secondly, in addition to identifying key sectors, we need to identify key markets – those that are growing and expanding. We must recognise that our markets are changing. We are trading more and more with the countries outside of the EU; last year trade outside the EU increased by 28%, while overall EU exports dropped by 3.6 %.
Sadly, during the debate many members failed to acknowledge the opportunities that can come with Brexit.
They focused on the EU market which is relatively smaller. This is hardly forward looking.
If we want to grow our economy and create the jobs and opportunities for our young people, we need to be prepared to go beyond our traditional markets.
This is one way that we will be able to build the stronger, more dynamic, vibrant economy that we all want to see.
Gordon Lyons, DUP MLA East Antrim