A cut in the rate of corporation tax is vital if Northern Ireland's economy is to succeed, the Rev Ian Paisley has told a function at the Labour Party conference in Bournemouth.
The First Minister was speaking last night at a reception organised by the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) and sponsored by Independent News & Media, owners of The Belfast Telegraph.
Also speaking were Secretary of State Shaun Woodward and Ivan Fallon, chief executive of Independent News & Media UK.
Attending the reception were ambassadors, MPs, MEPs, peers and other key figures from the Labour Party and the media.
Mr Paisley said it was vital that the legacy of several decades of under-investment in Northern Ireland was tackled.
He said: "Corporation tax is a specific area we would like to see addressed... A change would allow Northern Ireland to expand its export base through the attraction of profitable foreign direct investment.
"Fiscal changes and investment are required for our economy to succeed. We must develop a high-wage, high-productivity economy focused on high value- added export markets."
Mr Paisley said that, while Northern Ireland was enjoying high numbers in employment, significant structural weaknesses remained.
He hailed the "significant contribution" the small business community was making to the economy and commended the FSB for its work.
The FSB said its message to the conference was that Northern Ireland was open for business.
Wilfred Mitchell, FSB policy chairman, told the function that the restoration of devolution was very important for the economy.
"At long last we have locally- elected and accountable ministers who are best placed to make decisions for the business community," he said.
He said that among the urgent issues were securing an "equitable" rate of corporation tax and attracting investment.
The proposal for a cut in corporation tax was first tabled in April 2005 by Sir Anthony O'Reilly, chief executive officer of Independent News & Media.
The case has now been taken up by the Industrial Task Force and forms a key plank in The Belfast Telegraph's Better Deal for Business campaign.