OFMDFM: St Patrick’s Day US Trip

Oral Answers to Questions — Office of the First Minister and deputy First Minister – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 2:30 pm on 2nd March 2015.

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Photo of Brenda Hale Brenda Hale DUP 2:30 pm, 2nd March 2015

T1. Mrs Hale asked the First Minister and deputy First Minister whether, as part of their trip to the US for St Patrick’s Day, they expect to promote Northern Ireland as a good place to invest. (AQT 2181/11-15)

Photo of Martin McGuinness Martin McGuinness Sinn Féin

Well, I have been very privileged in this job, going back to when the DUP and Sinn Féin first agreed, with others, to go into government together in 2007, to work on how we can develop, as a central plank of our economy, the attraction of foreign direct investment to the North. The late Rev Ian Paisley and I had a very successful visit in December 2007, and since then I have worked very closely with the First Minister, Peter Robinson, all over the United States of America. In the course of that work we have managed, even against the backdrop of a very cruel world economic recession, to attract more foreign direct investment jobs to the North than at any other time in the history of the state.

Quite clearly, there is an open door for us in the United States, whether it be in California, Chicago, New York or Washington. We had, during our stewardship of OFMDFM, a very important economic investment conference right in the State Department, from which flowed many of the new job announcements that we are now seeing on a very regular basis. I believe that we will continue with a very positive message and, against the success of the Stormont House Agreement, make it absolutely clear to everybody that we are open for business. In the context of the debate around corporation tax, it is quite obvious to all of us that there are great opportunities, as well as challenges, that lie ahead.

Photo of Brenda Hale Brenda Hale DUP

Deputy First Minister, you anticipated part of my supplementary question. Do you agree that the sooner we have the devolution of corporation tax and know the rate at which it will be set, the better it will be for Invest NI and the Executive to attract more jobs to Northern Ireland?

Photo of Martin McGuinness Martin McGuinness Sinn Féin

I certainly do agree, and the First Minister and I have been involved in discussions around that. It will also be discussed during the course of the party leaders' implementation meetings. When you consider the sort of access we have in going to the United States and actually meeting President Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and others, you can clearly see that there is incredible interest in the ongoing success of the peace process here.

There is also tremendous interest in supporting economic development here. In the course of our conversations, we recognise that Invest NI has a very important job to do, and we need to give it as much support as we possibly can. That means coming, as quickly to possible, to an agreement on time frames and on the rate that we strike. Of course, in the meantime we have to await the finalisation of the legislation in the House of Commons, but I am confident that the decisions that have to be made will be made in a very expedient way, with a view to ensuring that we garner as much opportunity as we possibly can.