Belfast Telegraph

St Patrick's date with Obama as Foster and McGuinness sell Northern Ireland to US investors

By Nevin Farrell

Arlene Foster lands in the US today for what will likely be her first and last meeting as First Minister with President Barack Obama at the White House.

Before flying out for her coast-to-coast visit, the DUP leader said she had high hopes that Northern Ireland's plan to lower corporation tax would act as an incentive to investors.

Mrs Foster and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness are part of the annual contingent of politicians heading to Washington DC for its St Patrick's week celebrations.

The ministers' four-day visit to the capital, New York and San Francisco will involve meetings with existing and potential investors and key political players.

The highlight will be a meeting with vice-President Joe Biden in the White House, where it's expected President Obama - who steps down on January 20, 2017 - will also greet the two leaders.

Mrs Foster said: "The United States has and continues to be an important investor in Northern Ireland.

"The US remains our number one foreign direct investor with nearly 180 US companies employing nearly 24,000 people in Northern Ireland.

"We have a highly educated and talented work force which, combined with our low cost base and the support we can provide for job creation, training, research and development, means we have a strong proposition.

"I remain focused on making Northern Ireland a great place to not only live and work, but also for international companies to invest and grow their business.

"This week is an important element of our long-term commitment to retain and attract further investment."

Mrs Foster told the BBC's Inside Business programme that the ability to lower corporation tax to 12.5% from 2018, compared to 19% in the rest of the UK, was a big incentive to US investors.

Mr McGuinness added: "Our companies currently export just over £1 billion of goods to the US so their economic importance to the North of Ireland is colossal.

"Since 2011 we have bucked the trend and successfully grown our economy.

"This week we will strengthen existing business and political relationships at a senior level and pursue opportunities to grow our economy.

"Real and lasting relationships are established and developed through face to face contact, and if you don't make the effort to come out here you simply don't count."

Belfast Telegraph