Northern Ireland business leaders sell province on trip to Brazil
Business leaders here have said they are working to promote the province in the absence of an Executive as they travel to Brazil in a bid to attract a conference worth nearly £2m to the economy.
The Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce and Industry is leading a delegation including Invest NI and ICC Belfast to Rio de Janeiro.
The South American country this week plays host to World Chambers Congress - and now Northern Ireland is hoping to attract the conference in 2023 in the sole bid from the UK and Ireland.
Chamber chief executive Ann McGregor said the presence of a Stormont minister would have helped its cause.
She said: "This visit to the 11th World Chambers Congress in Rio is the first of several stages involved in the bidding process to bring the Congress to Belfast in 2023.
"As we enter further stages over the coming months, it would no doubt strengthen our bid to have a Minister or Deputy First Minister join the delegation.
"The ongoing political talks process may not be easy, but the reforming of an Executive at Stormont is vital."
But she said business organisations are working hard to draw investment in the absence of an Executive. "Despite the lack of the NI Executive, private and public sector organisations including local councils, NI Chamber, Invest NI and organisations such as Visit Belfast and ICC Belfast continue to market Belfast and Northern Ireland internationally.
"Delegations such as the one in Rio this week will continue to spread the word about business and everything else that the region has to offer.
"We will work together to persuade potential visitors or inward investors that despite our lack of an Executive, Northern Ireland is very much open for business."
The World Chambers Congress is held every two years.
While the business leaders are travelling without a minister in tow this week, past First and Deputy First Ministers travelled extensively to promote the province.
In 2013 Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness visited Brazil and the US to promote trade and tourism, with Mr Robinson travelling there again in 2014.
Earlier this year former NI Chamber president Ellvena Graham spoke of her regret that there were no longer ministers in situ to promote us globally, quoting an article from director Terry George referring to Mr Robinson and Mr McGuinness travelling through Los Angeles to visit film studios.