Representatives of 80 companies gathered in Crumlin Road Gaol for the 12th annual NI-NL Trade Dinner.
The annual event, the highlight of the NI-NL calendar, was attended by local exporters and their Dutch partners and customers, representatives of The British Embassy The Hague and the Netherlands Embassy London, to celebrate the strong and ever growing trade relations the province has with the Netherlands. This occasion was an opportunity to recognize the contributions made by Invest Northern Ireland, Northern Ireland Trade Consultants and Lisburn & Castlereagh City Council in developing Northern Ireland’s longstanding trading relationship with the Netherlands.
Alderman Allan Ewart MBE, Chairman of Lisburn & Castlereagh City Council’s Development Committee, welcoming the companies, said: “The high attendance of Dutch and Northern Ireland businesses is evidence of the success of partnerships that have been formed through NI-NL. Over the years’ this network has supported and enabled opportunities in trade, enterprise and investment for businesses across a variety of sectors. “The business credentials of Northern Ireland are supported by a strong and resilient infrastructure; and within the Lisburn Castlereagh area over 4,000 businesses avail of our area’s property infrastructure and excellent transportation links. It is great to see so many Lisburn Castlereagh businesses here tonight who have benefited from the NI-NL network. I wish all businesses involved in the NI-NL every continued success in the future.”
Steve Murnaghan, Managing Consultant of Northern Ireland Trade Consultants, based in Amsterdam, emphasized that the Netherlands is a Gateway to Growth for Northern Ireland, a theme carried in the 15th NI-NL BIZ magazine which was published the same day. The Founder of NI-NL highlighted some key facts about the Dutch economy which make it especially relevant to NI exporters. The Netherlands is the 5th most prosperous country globally, the 6th largest EU economy and Northern Ireland’s number 1 European export market (by capita). Coupled with the Dutch mindset, their entrepreneurial spirit and the fact that the economy is experiencing a boom the time is right to engage with the Netherlands. Murnaghan also revealed to the audience that he has now lived more of his life in the Netherlands than in Northern Ireland, and sees the strategic importance of the Netherlands to Northern Ireland businesses on a daily basis.
Steve Harper, Invest NI’s Executive Director of International Business, added: “Growing exports is part of our strategic focus to transform Northern Ireland into a vibrant private sector led economy and the local companies trading in the Netherlands are among many helping us to achieve this. Partnership initiatives such as the Northern Ireland - Netherlands Trade and Export Society offer extensive networking opportunities and help to promote friendships and trade contacts which are so valuable to business growth.”
Steve Murnaghan of Northern Ireland Trade Consultants thanks representatives of the NI-NL Founders Alderman Allan Ewart MBE of Lisburn & Castlereagh City Council and Steve Harper of Invest NI.
Following the Founder speeches 4 Dutch companies and 4 Northern Ireland companies took to the podium to give their experiences of Doing Business with their counterparts. The recurring themes from this spontaneous ‘Free Mic’ session was that Dutch companies appreciated the ‘can do’ mentality of Northern Ireland SME’s who in turn appreciated the opportunity to grow their businesses by developing mutually beneficial partnerships into Europe through The Netherlands.
Northern Ireland Speakers who gave their experiences of doing business with The Netherlands: Colin Wells - Keylite Windows, Philip Morrow - PRM Ireland, Diane Risk - Belfast City Airport, Sebastien Gallois – Moy Park
Dutch Speakers who gave their experiences of doing business with Northern Ireland: Jeroen Coesmans - Decora Blind Systems, Bart van Schelt - Oldenboom, Werner Bos - Van Wees, and Frank Mélotte - Limes International.