Northern Ireland

NI Chamber of Commerce calls for urgent exports action

Northern Ireland's business community has called for "urgent action", as the Stormont Executive's plan to boost exports struggles to meet its ambitions.

Export growth is one of the central planks of the executive's economic strategy.

But the NI Chamber of Commerce has told MLAs on the enterprise committee the executive's plan was "fragmented".

It said the Republic of Ireland was better at helping fledgling exporters.

The executive wants manufacturing exports from Northern Ireland to increase by 20% by 2015.

"However, one year into that target, exports have fallen by 1.2%," said chamber president Mark Nodder.

The number of companies exporting products has also dropped from 1,700 in 2010 to 1,500.

That is just 3% of all Northern Ireland businesses.

The chamber has been giving evidence to the enterprise committee.

Sinn Féin's Mitchel McLaughlin asked: "Has anyone pushed the red button in the executive?"

Mr Nodder replied: "I am not hearing it if they have."

He added the best approach "may not be too far south of here frankly."

The chamber said an example of "best practice" was when Enterprise Ireland, an Irish government-backed business development agency, recently established a potential exporters division in the Republic.

North of the Irish border, Invest NI helps local firms in the export market and organises dozens of overseas trade missions annually.

"Government must recognise the scale of the export challenge we face and commit to delivering an export action plan for Northern Ireland," said Mr Nodder.

"The current support system is fragmented and fails to recognise that every business looking to export has different requirements."

Just ten companies - such as Bombardier - account for half of all exports from Northern Ireland.

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