Belfast Telegraph

Exports the key to prosperity in 2012, Arlene Foster tells businesses

By Clare Weir

Northern Ireland firms need to remain optimistic and seek new export opportunities over the next 12 months, according to the Enterprise Minister.

In her forecast for 2012, Arlene Foster again emphasised that a cut in corporation tax could help transform the economy here.

Ms Foster said that despite a tough few years, there are now deals to be won and untapped potential to be realised, especially in new markets outside Europe such as China, India and Brazil.

"Many local businesses are showing encouraging signs of growth and there have been a number of inward investment successes," she said.

"A wide range of small and medium-sized businesses are already exporting goods and services across the world, and we are working to encourage businesses to export to new markets."

Export has already been identified as a key driver in getting the economy back on its feet, with bodies like the Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce and Enterprise Ireland championing the case.

It was revealed earlier this month that while the Republic's export sector is buoyant, exports from Northern Ireland to the Republic have fallen with sales to our closest neighbour down £229m to £1.2bn in the financial year 2010 to 2011 - a fall of 19%.

Invest Northern Ireland recently launched the Boosting Business campaign, including a Jobs Fund of £19m to help firms create job opportunities.

The minister added that the recent launch of the draft Economic Strategy, which is currently out for consultation, emphasises the importance of Northern Ireland being able to set its own tax rates.

"We have been absolutely clear with the Coalition Government that Northern Ireland wants these valuable powers," she said.

"During 2012 we hope to see a positive outcome on corporation tax, an outcome similar to the one on Air Passenger Duty, which saw the tax reduced on international flights out of Northern Ireland.

"It has been a challenging year but, by government and business working together, we can ensure devolution delivers for the people of Northern Ireland and build towards a prosperous and dynamic economic future for everyone."

Arlene Foster said that 2012 will be a time to rebrand the region as a place to live, work, invest in, study and visit, with Northern Ireland entering a period of significant opportunity for tourism.

"Initial estimates are that collectively 2012 and 2013, and their legacies, could generate an additional 833,000 visitors, £140m spend and 3,570 jobs over the next four years." she said.

Weekly Business Digest Newsletter

This week's business news headlines, directly to your inbox every Tuesday.