Europe

Financial support plan to boost NI external trade

Employee working in pharmaceutical firms
Image caption Northern Ireland's pharmaceutical firms have performed particularly strongly with exports up by 84%

Northern Ireland companies selling to external markets are to be offered more financial support under a scheme announced by the economy minister.

The Stormont executive has a target of growing external sales by 33% over the next four years and by 80% by 2025.

The "trade accelerator plan" includes increased grants to visit trade shows.

Small and medium sized firms will also get accommodation and travel grants for market development trips to Great Britain and the Republic of Ireland.

Economy Minister Simon Hamilton said increasing exports was critical to "transforming Northern Ireland into a globally competitive economy".

The most recent trade figures show that manufacturing exports from Northern Ireland were up by 9.5% in the year ending June 2016.


Exports and external sales - what is the difference?

External sales are all those sales made outside Northern Ireland, that is sales to Great Britain, the Republic of Ireland and anywhere else in the world.

Exports consist of all sales made outside the United Kingdom.


Pharmaceutical firms have performed particularly strongly with exports up by 84% or £527m.

However, the number of firms that are exporting has continued to drift downwards and are there now fewer than 1,000 exporting businesses in Northern Ireland.

The last executive fell significantly short of it export targets.

It aimed to grow manufacturing exports by 20% but growth was less than 6%.

Mr Hamilton said: "I want us to look at existing markets and new ones as huge opportunities for Northern Ireland.

"We are already doing exceptionally well at exporting our goods and services but I believe we can do even better."

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