Economy Minister Simon Hamilton MLA has said Northern Ireland must become more forward thinking and outward looking as it looks to seize the opportunities presented by the UK exiting the European Union.
The Minister has said he intends to develop a new International Trade Plan as well as a new Air Routes Task Force in a bid to provide a map and significant boost for businesses trading abroad for Northern Ireland.
The plan will include:
:: a new Trade Advisory Board drawing together some of the top business leaders to provide assistance to the Minister and Invest NI as they look to the world for new trade links;
:: the appointment of Northern Ireland Trade Ambassadors, utilising the untapped power of our diaspora to assist us in efforts to open up new opportunities, especially in emerging markets;
:: the expansion of Invest NI’s international presence in up to 10 more locations around the world by the end of next year; and
:: the creation of new trade, investment and innovation hubs in key global markets.
“Winning in an increasingly competitive global economy isn’t easy,” said Mr Hamilton.
“We can’t sit back and expect success. We need to stand up and sell ourselves because no one else will.
“In the same way we have become the best performing region in the UK for attracting inward investment, so we must too aspire to become an outward looking region that trades with the world.
“We must bring the exact same focus to expanding our exports as we have to attracting inward investment.
“If we are to seize the opportunities that this exciting new era that the United Kingdom is entering presents, then Northern Ireland must become more forward thinking and outward looking. And that means, in no small part, a renewed and redoubled emphasis on international trade.
“By concentrating on developing new trade opportunities we are building on solid foundations.”
With that, he said, came the need to review air connectivity through the setting up of a new Air Routes Task Force to help him devise new policies and interventions to improve Northern Ireland’s air connectivity.
“Competing globally isn’t just about making Northern Ireland an attractive destination for investment.
“It’s also about making us attractive destination for visitors. We’ve always known that we live in one of the most beautiful places on the planet.
“More people from every corner of the globe are realising that Northern Ireland is a must-see destination.
“Let’s be honest, we’ve struggled to secure and maintain air routes to key cities and markets,” he said.
“I’m not satisfied with sitting back and saying that because we are small we can’t sustain air routes to places like the US, Canada and the Middle East as well as hubs around Europe.”
“We need to see our airports as strategic assets for our economy and work with them to take Northern Ireland business to the world.”