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Economy minister Simon Hamilton intent on improving relations during US visit

By Staff Reporter

Ecomony Minister Simon Hamilton vowed to maintain Northern Ireland's close economic links with the US during a visit to Chicago this week.

The minister was in the Illinois city with Invest NI chief executive Alastair Hamilton, visiting employers which already have operations in Northern Ireland as well as potential investors.

Simon Hamilton described the US as the "number one foreign direct investor" in Northern Ireland, with 185 US firms employing 23,000 people.

And he said a recent surge in exports from the province to the US underlined its importance as a market.

"It is an important trading partner, accounting for almost 21% of Northern Ireland's exports in 2015/16. I want to not just maintain but grow that partnership."

The minister visited Chicago-based insurance giant Allstate, one of Northern Ireland's biggest US investors with 2,300 IT employees in Belfast, Londonderry and Strabane. "They are a great example of how doing business in Northern Ireland works well for international companies."

And he said Northern Ireland had many strong selling points, but that its people were the number one draw.

"We have good infrastructure, a comparatively low cost base and strong government support for business. But a key aspect of our proposition to investors is our people. Our colleges and universities are internationally renowned and have been key in producing the talent to drive the development of Northern Ireland's technology and knowledge industries. Coupled with a reduced rate of corporation tax, our strong skills base will make Northern Ireland extremely attractive to US investors."

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