Cross-border trade at all-time high of £6.11bn after 80% growth since 1997
Cross-border trade is at a record high after growing by an average of 4% every year since 1997.
Newry-based InterTradeIreland (ITI), which is marking its 20th anniversary this year, said trade between Northern Ireland and the Republic was worth £6.11bn in 2017.
While trade between here and Britain is of a higher value, the volume of goods and vehicles crossing the border is much greater.
ITI said exports south were worth £3.9bn in 2017, with 758,000 cross-border deliveries. The latest figures (from 2015) show 410,000 deliveries coming north from the Republic.
The body said the local goods trade had increased 115% in value since 1997.
Yesterday's figures from ITI came amid comments from the European Commission's chief spokesman, which fuelled fears over the potential introduction of a hard border on the island after Brexit.
Speaking to the media, Margaritis Schinas said it was "pretty obvious you will have a hard border" in a no-deal scenario.
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It followed concerns earlier this week from the haulage industry over the limited number of EU-entry permits for Northern Ireland freight firms in a no-deal Brexit.
Yesterday ITI said it had worked to assist over 39,000 firms in its 20 years, helping create or protect 14,800 jobs and generate more than £1bn in business development.
Many of those businesses fell within the micro category, employing less than 10 people.
Aidan Gough, who heads the trade body, said: "The microeconomic impact that InterTradeIreland has had through its programmes and initiatives over the last 20 years is significant.
"Brexit will affect firms on both sides of the border but action now can help businesses prepare for the imminent challenges and opportunities that will arise.
"It is my hope that we can help SMEs take the first step in preparing for their future through the support and expertise of our Brexit Advisory Service and that we can equip companies to deal with whatever changes happen post Brexit," he commented. "Goods firms which export across the border are found to have a productivity boost of 9%," he added.
"In terms of turnover, those same firms that trade across the border have a 93% higher turnover than firms that sell only in the local market and employ 46% more people."
Mr Gough concluded: "Participation in cross-border exporting is clearly making an important contribution to the performance of individual businesses, local rural economies, and the broader economy on the island."