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Julie Underwood on the benefits of looking West for trade


The Chamber's international trade director's column, for the Journal

When we talk about international trade we very rarely discuss the potential marketplaces in our nearest western neighbours in Southern Ireland.

Yet some of our region’s businesses trading there have had tremendous success there, including one of our members just the other week. Lingotots, has a significant growth underway with a growing franchise in Ireland, which is great news.

This week we have the pleasure of hosting a number of our Irish Chamber colleagues who want to forge closer connections to the North East.

Our members will have the opportunity to network and explore potential future collaborations with 40 business leaders from the Irish mission, as well as champion the North East as a place to do business.

Since its foundation in 2011, the British Irish Chamber of Commerce has played a vital role in maintaining focus on the value of two-way trade between the United Kingdom and Ireland. There is around €60 billion annual trade in this relationship which sustains 400,000 jobs. A substantial figure and significant boost to our economy.

We are showcasing some of our best assets including our Process/Chemical sector and its supply chain, the pharmaceuticals, agritech, medtech, sectors hosted by the Centre for Process Innovation (CPI) the new National Biologics Manufacturing Centre Darlington. They’ll also been informed about our maritime trade and excellent Universities.

Having worked in international trade for many years, both with the Chamber and within North East industry I have taken part in a substantial number of missions and can vouch for the benefits of these trade visits, both inward like the Ireland one or outward.

Earlier this year I was in Atlanta in the US and the members we took there were able to make an excellent number of useful connections.

Many of these links are due to the global Chamber network which reaches all around the world, with specialists and influencers in every office.

We have our own international trade specialists here in the NE but their knowledge is enriched so much by our ready-made network of businesses around the world, with advisers ready to make warm introductions to any exporters.

They get the chance to find out about emerging markets and sectors which is invaluable. It is fantastic for us to see our regional businesses forge these new links and develop some really innovative relationships, that also help combat again any fluctuations in demand in the UK. With Brexit there has never been a better time to do this.