Belfast Telegraph

Exports drive targeting Gulf states

Northern Ireland will set its sights on the Gulf states and beyond in a bid to boost its export markets, Stormont's Enterprise minister vowed.

Arlene Foster said she would also focus on the emerging economies of Brazil, Russia, India and China in an effort to exploit business opportunities for home-grown companies. Mrs Foster stressed the importance of improving the region's export trade as she outlined the Executive's new Economic Strategy to the Assembly.

The blueprint has been produced in conjunction with the powersharing administration's four-year Programme for Government (PfG), to focus specifically on boosting Northern Ireland's flagging economic fortunes

The Executive has pledged to promote 25,000 new jobs and achieve £1 billion of investment by 2015. It intends to attract £375 million worth of foreign direct investment in the local economy, and press for the devolution of business tax, and reduce its level.

Mrs Foster said government business support agency Invest NI would also increase its work in certain global markets in a bid to identify opportunities for home grown firms.

She said Invest NI had strengthened its representation in the United States, Canada, Russia, Latin America and South Africa.

"This work will be further supported by an extensive programme of some 60 business missions this year, which will have a key focus on the emerging economies of Brazil, Russia, India and China," she told the Assembly.

The strategy pledges to increase the value of manufacturing exports by 20% in the next four years, with a further vow to up the value of manufacturing exports to the emerging economies by 60%.

As part of the plan, the Executive is also establishing a £50 million loan fund to help with the availability of finance to small and medium sized businesses. It has also pledged to eliminate Air Passenger Duty on direct long haul flights, after Belfast's only US route was threatened by lower taxes in Dublin.

After a three-hour debate in the Assembly chamber, members present endorsed the strategy without any voices of opposition.

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