Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland's economy ready for next leap on global stage, claims Trump's new US consul

By Claire McNeilly

The US government's new representative in Northern Ireland has praised the impact that Donald Trump has made on America.

Elizabeth Kennedy Trudeau took up her post as US consul general earlier this month.

From Boston, she has spent much of her career overseas and until recently had a posting in Pakistan.

In her first mainstream media interview since she arrived in Northern Ireland to take up her role, Ms Trudeau talked about the continued importance of the region to the US and how much she's looking forward to working in Belfast for the next three years.

The 48-year-old career diplomat has come from a posting in Lahore, Pakistan, but she's no stranger to these shores, having already been here in the 1990s and in 2015.

"I've been to Belfast before, so coming back and seeing how different Northern Ireland is now has been really eye-opening and remarkable," she said.

"I also think it is a perfect time to be here.

"It's not only interesting politically, it's interesting economically, because of the US investment, because of how far Northern Ireland's economy has come.

"I think we're really at the cusp of Northern Ireland making that next jump economically onto the world stage, so at the US Consulate General we can leverage our connections in the United States along with our partners here in Northern Ireland to help move that relationship forward."

Although she hasn't met Mr Trump personally, she said the US president has been good for her native country.

"You can see the results of his actions; the US economy is booming, consumer confidence is up, US businesses are investing," she said.

"He has revolutionised the way that he speaks to the American people and he deserves a great deal of credit for that."

Ms Trudeau said the role of the US consul general is to help and support American tourists and US residents living in Northern Ireland, as well as US businesses seeking to invest and partner local firms and vice versa.

"We do programmes like the International Visitor Leadership Programme (IVLP) which helps identify people from here who are maybe doing specific projects, community work or business or entrepreneur work or the arts," she added.

"And finally we help explain US foreign policy, our position internationally and help people get beyond the headlines and understand what the US stands for."

Ms Trudeau said that she was impressed by Northern Ireland's dynamism.

"I was at St George's Market and I wandered around the city centre and it's really booming," she said.

"You have a lot going on that is accessible, not only to tourists, but also to the people of Northern Ireland."

She said Northern Ireland remains a priority for the United States.

"Northern Ireland and the US have deep historical ties and there's a natural affinity that we have with the people of Northern Ireland," she continued.

"It's very important, not only because of the historical ties, but because of the opportunities that Northern Ireland represents for American visitors and business, as well as for American students who want to study at the excellent institutions here, so the relationship is very important.

"Every day my American colleagues and I at the consulate laugh about how lucky were are to be in Northern Ireland at this time. This is a dream job and I'm so fortunate to be here."

Ms Trudeau has spent a busy first week in Northern Ireland, meeting political leaders and officials.

She has been impressed by Belfast, saying the city appears to be "really booming" despite the economic challenges that lie ahead in the wake of the fire which gutted the historic Bank Buildings last month.

And she is convinced the city has "come up with a solid plan to drive foot traffic" during the forthcoming months in which the central section of Royal Avenue will remain cordoned off.

She added: "This is a difficult thing but it shows the resiliency of Belfast in its political and business leadership in thinking how to ensure the city centre continues to thrive even in the face of that tragedy."

The previous consul general in Northern Ireland, Dan Lawton, returned to the United States in July.

He is taking up a new role as an office director at the US State Department dealing with the Balkans.

Belfast Telegraph

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