Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland sees exports to Europe and Republic reach £8.7bn

By Andrew Madden

A rise in business with the Republic of Ireland and other EU countries increased Northern Ireland's export trade to £8.7bn last year.

It was a 9% jump from the previous year's total of £7.8bn - but the year-on-year growth was the lowest of any UK region.

The HM Revenue and Customs figures follow discussions between the EU and Northern Ireland's two main political parties, the DUP and Sinn Fein.

Sales of goods to the EU accounted for 56% of total exports from Northern Ireland, up 3% from 2016.

The Republic remains the number one destination for exports - in 2017 the value of that business rose by 15%, or £350m, to £2.7bn.

Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce chief executive Ann McGregor said the growth was to be welcomed, but added that the figures emphasise the importance of the EU and Ireland markets.

"NI Chamber members tell us that the current uncertainty around Brexit and the Executive isn't helping business growth and confidence here and may explain why our rate of export growth is slower than the rest of the UK."

Imports from the Republic rose by £100m.

There was a major decline in exports to the region's second largest export partner - the United States. Exports to the US were down by 16%, or £272m, from 2016. Last week, US President Donald Trump said he plans to impose a 25% tariff on steel imports and a 10% tariff on aluminum imports, which could hinder trade between the US and UK. HMRC's figures do not reflect business between Northern Ireland and Great Britain, which is categorised as "external sales".

GB remains Northern Ireland's most valuable market, with sales worth £14bn.

Around a quarter of Northern Ireland's exports are classed as machinery and transport equipment.

Belfast Telegraph

Weekly Business Digest Newsletter

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