Singapore: Historic mission boldly goes where Stormont has never gone before
NINE Northern Ireland companies will be rubbing shoulders with some of the world's biggest aerospace firms tomorrow as the Singapore Airshow launches.
The businesses – originating from Dungannon, Fivemiletown and Belfast – are part of a 30-strong contingent from around the UK and Ireland on the first joint trade mission between Stormont, Westminster and Dublin.
The regions have teamed up in the mission "as part of a programme of co-operation to strengthen relations", according to a joint statement.
It follows the Queen's visit to Ireland in 2011 when an agreement to work together was reached between Prime Minister David Cameron and the Taoiseach, Enda Kenny.
The test bed for such co-operation is Singapore and the focus will be on aerospace, a sector which Northern Ireland has a speciality in and is well versed in selling overseas.
"We will go out, share a stand and show our wares off to what is one of the biggest airshows in the world," Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster said in an interview with the Belfast Telegraph.
"It's a gateway into the aerospace market there and hopefully our companies will be able to seek out opportunities to get involved in the supply chains of other big manufacturers."
Securing export orders is expected to be the main focus on the companies on the trip, but there's also the possibility of securing inward investment.
That raises the issue of corporation tax which, at 23% currently (falling to 21% from April 1) in the UK is well above the Republic's 12.5%.
Could that create a problem when Northern Ireland companies are bidding for business shoulder to shoulder with contemporaries in the Republic while in Singapore?
"We've had to deal with that for a number of years no matter which market we go into," Ms Foster said. "I view us as very strong in the aerospace sector so I'm not concerned with that at all."
Representing the Republic on the trade mission is jobs minister Richard Bruton who was equally glowing regarding the sector across the border.
"The aerospace industry is one of Ireland's most valuable and technically advanced industries," he said.
"Today, Ireland is recognised as a leading location for aviation, MRO, technology, engineering and aviation finance."
Stephen Hammond, UK Transport Minister, is leading the trip and said the co-operation presents a strong business case to prospective business partners.
"The UK aerospace sector is a global success story. Half of the world's commercial aircraft fly on wings made in the UK, and every 2.5 seconds an aircraft powered by Rolls-Royce engines takes off or lands somewhere in the world," he said.
"This week's trade mission will encourage greater collaboration and partnership between UK and Irish aerospace companies strengthening our offer to international buyers."
Northern Ireland companies on the Singapore trade mission:
Denroy Plastics, Bangor
Global Financial Organisation, Belfast
Jet Assist, Fivemiletown
Jet Spec, Fivemiletown
Marlborough Engineering, Belfast
Morson Projects Ltd, Belfast
WIS Aerospace, Newtownabbey