Wed 21st Dec 2016
December 2016: Time to look to the west and east
Nick Coburn, President, Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce and Industry
For more than 20 years there has been a dedicated and intense campaign to ensure that Northern Ireland politicians have the power to set our own rate of corporation tax, and thanks to the collective effort of a range of dedicated individuals and business organisations, the date for the new rate is on the horizon.
In 2017 we will be in preparation mode for April 2018 when as a region we will be a more attractive investment location than the rest of the UK. That’s when the hard work starts.
Since the beginning of what evolved into our political and peace process, the USA has been a friend of Northern Ireland and has largely been the main focus of our investment effort, and with largely positive results.
The flow of FDI projects into the region, even over the last year in spite of Brexit uncertainty, has been impressive and Invest NI should be applauded for their ongoing efforts.
Having a number of Invest NI offices and the NI Bureau in Washington have all helped with those efforts.
However, we now need to spread our net even more widely and the First Minister’s visit to China was a welcome and positive way to round off 2016.
Since the re-establishment of devolution here the linkages between Northern Ireland and China have actually been quite strong.
The relationships stretch across economic, academic and cultural spheres and there have been some tangible outworkings already.
Only yesterday, there was the announcement that a Northern Ireland manufacturer of aircraft seats, which counts Qantas, American Airlines and Aer Lingus among its customers, is set to be acquired by The Aviation Industry Corporation of China (AVIC).
Thompson Aero Seating operates from a 113,000 sq ft facility in Portadown. Established in 2009, the company designs, engineers and manufactures premium business-class, full flat-bed airline seating.
Meanwhile, in June Toomebridge firm SDC Trailers was bought over by Chinese firm CIMC Vehicles.
The partnership between Ulster University and the Zhejiang University is manifest in the Confucius Institute at Coleraine which plugs us into a global Chinese association and network.
There is also the joint college which has been established by Queen’s University, Belfast in China through a long-standing friendship between Queen’s School of Pharmacy and the China Medical University (CMU), one of the foremost medical universities in China.
China Queen’s College (CQC) recruits students from the top tier (Band 1) Gaokao examinations in China and delivers Queen’s degrees in high-quality purpose built facilities on CMU’s campus in Shenyang, capital of Liaoning Province.
Since the launch of the College in 2014, there are approximately 150 students studying various courses and it is projected that by 2018/19 the CQC population will reach 600 undergraduate students taking a range of Queen’s University undergraduate degree programmes.
Arlene Foster clearly struck a positive chord with her Chinese hosts.
We now have a permanent residence in Beijing with the opening of the NI Bureau in the World Trade Centre in the city under the management of Tim Losty.
This office will act as a base for visiting Northern Ireland businesses and academics strengthens further the ties between our countries.