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China trade trip is a golden opportunity for Northern Ireland exporters

By Rachel Martin

Published 24/11/2015

Enterprise Minister Jonathan Bell met Mr Song Jingwu, vice president of the Chinese People's Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries (CPAFFC)
Enterprise Minister Jonathan Bell met Mr Song Jingwu, vice president of the Chinese People's Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries (CPAFFC)

Exporters from Northern Ireland have arrived in China to build on a "golden age" in the relationship between the nations.

The firms taking part in the Invest NI trade mission, which continues until Friday, represent sectors from poultry to ship fit-out.

Invest NI said it wanted to give both experienced exporters and new entrants the opportunity to meet potential trading partners.

Enterprise Minister Jonathan Bell, who is leading the trip, said UK-China relations were in a "golden age". He said: "China is clearly open for business and we have already laid sound foundations in terms of exports.

"It's now time to build on those foundations and I look forward to hearing the success stories that will inevitably flow from the important contacts made during this week's trade mission."

Ulster University Business School, Titanic Belfast, Moy Park, Yelo, Audio International, Brand-It Manufacturing, Sensurity, Malvern Training, NiSoft UK and MJM Marine are all taking part.

With the support of Invest NI, trade missions have been travelling from Northern Ireland to China for over 15 years.

Mr Bell added: "In July, we hosted the Healthcare UK China Roadshow in Belfast and, just last month, the UK-China Aviation Working Group spent a day in Northern Ireland giving us the opportunity to showcase our expertise in aerospace.

"Two weeks ago, 13 Northern Ireland food companies were at Food Hotel China in Shanghai. Our food companies are beginning to gain traction in the market and this should reap benefits for the economy in the near future."

Alan Gibson of Moy Park said that China presented "an exciting future growth market" for the company. He added that the prospect of an increasing population meant "growing demand" for Moy Park products.

Due to restrictions, UK poultry producers currently cannot export to China.

However, it is hoped that a deal could be struck by connecting suppliers and buyers once Chinese officials are assured of the quality and traceability of Northern Ireland meat.

This month, the Chinese market opened up to barley growers in a deal expected to be worth £100m to the UK economy over the next five years.

Earlier this month, Mr Bell told food producers he wanted the region's exports to China to pass £100m. This year an estimated £95.5m of goods was exported to China. Six years ago the figure sat at just £60m.

Foyle International, a language school based in Londonderry, is on the mission.

Director Paul Murray said his goal was to recruit agents based in China to sell the Northern Ireland education experience to Asian students.

Mr Murray's company manages the whole placement experience for Asian students studying in Northern Ireland and will arrange everything from accommodation to language classes.

"You have to sell Northern Ireland first and academia second. Chinese students love the Titanic story and Game of Thrones," he said.

Belfast Telegraph

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