The UK’s first Director General for Exports has met with 60 of the Province’s top exporters at an event hosted by Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce and Industry (NI Chamber) and Danske Bank.
Mr Mahon joined businesses at the Culloden Hotel in Holywood to discuss the Government’s newly launched export strategy.
He was appointed by the Department for International Trade (DIT), headed by International Trade Secretary Liam Fox, earlier this year to work closely with business and put exports at the heart of UK growth.
He is also at the heart of the Government’s post-Brexit trading plan, and is tasked with ensuring that new and existing exporters can access the right financial, practical and promotional support to sell overseas.
Speaking at the Danske Bank Export First event, Mr Mahon said: “Europe remains one of our strongest trading partners, and receives more than 50 per cent of Northern Ireland’s exports.
“This market will, of course, continue to remain hugely important after we leave the EU, but we are also entering a time where our opportunities externally are becoming even greater.
“My job with my team is to support Northern Island to work with its 8,500 current exporters to drive exporting, but also open markets and opportunities to encourage more businesses to join the ranks.
“The Export Strategy is deliberate in its ambition to raise exports from 30 to 35 per cent of UK GDP – strengthening our position as one of the 21st century’s great trading nations.
“This shift would add over £100 billion worth of exports to our current performance, helping UK businesses to generate higher returns, produce higher paying jobs and provide more money to fund critical public services.”
Speaking at the event, Ann McGregor, Chief Executive of NI Chamber, said: “With so many unknowns for international trade, it is great to bring together such a highly influential audience of local exporters to meet with the DIT’s Director General for Exports.
“At a time of immense change for the UK economy, it is critical that the Government gets its national approach to trade and export right.
“It is for that reason that NI Chamber warmly welcomes the Government’s new Export Strategy, and specifically the Government’s pledge to work hand-in-hand with business to unlock opportunities for UK firms all across the globe.
“Businesses here in Northern Ireland have products and services that are second to none, making the importance of a ‘team UK’ approach throughout the execution of the strategy extremely important. However to be successful on an international stage, businesses also require the best possible business environment at home.
“We need airports with capacity for direct flights to link businesspeople and goods to customers around the world, clear immigration and training policies that let firms secure talent from around the world, top-class digital connectivity.
“Most importantly no hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland post-Brexit in order to ensure that firms here can still serve our number one export market, the Republic of Ireland.”
Aaron Ennis, Head of North Business Centre, Danske Bank, added: “For a growing number of Danske Bank customers, exports are an essential driver of growth. We see it as our role to support them as they identify and target new markets around the world where there is demand for their goods and services.
“As we head into a crucial period for the Northern Ireland economy and await details of the UK’s trade deal with the EU post Brexit, it was very useful to hear from the department’s new Director General for Exports on the Government’s export strategy.
“Danske Bank has proudly supported the Export First programme since its outset and we believe it has provided invaluable learnings, both for Northern Ireland’s most successful export companies and those firms who aspire to sell their products more widely across the globe.”
The NI Chamber and Danske Bank Export First roundtable formed part of NI Chamber’s Learn Grow Excel suite of business support services which is designed to support companies of all sizes in their ambition to grow.