Belfast Telegraph

Monday 22 September 2014

Companies still failing to reap rewards from East

It could be said that talking of China as the next big export destination has become a bit passe. We've known for ages that its phenomenal economic growth rate, increasing wealth and growing population mean it needs many of the goods and services we produce.

Historically though, we in Northern Ireland haven't been particularly good at exploiting China's growing thirst.

The region accounts for 1.3% of Northern Ireland's total exports, thought to be worth around £100m, but that's well below the 4.3% the UK as a whole manages to export to China.

Oddly enough animal hides, to make leather, account for much of our exports, but there's also electrical goods and engineering equipment on that list along with the food products from the likes of Dale Farm.

The latter hasn't featured strongly in total exports but is beginning to pique with companies like Karro, mentioned in the story to the left of this column, recognising there's a huge opportunity by targeting such growing markets.

That's an example which needs to be followed by other companies in Northern Ireland because without export markets like these we'll not be able to pull ourselves out of the current economic mire, granted one which is getting much brighter but one which is still very much apparent.

As a region we still import much more than we export and that needs to reverse.

The fact only 2% of companies here export is an embarrassment to the economy and does little to give the impression of an business community ready to take on the world.

Former prime minister Tony Blair once said his government's three priorities were "education, education, education".

If we're to have an economy capable of employing the swathes of A-level students who got their results yesterday then we need to focus on "export, export and export" in the next few years.

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