Samford University students got a global economics lesson Feb. 26 when Her Majesty’s Consul General Annabelle Malins and Northern Ireland Bureau Director Norman Houston spoke as part of the Brock School of Business International Business Speakers Series.
Malins spoke first about the economic outlook in the United Kingdom and how their economy affects other economies worldwide, including the economy of the United States.
“It’s jobs and the sustainability of those jobs that will aid in economic recovery,” said Malins. “These are the primary issues influencing our investments and shaping the global economy, and they must receive our focus right now.”
The United Kingdom is America’s largest trading partner, with more than $2.5 billion in trade every year. The UK is Alabama’s second largest trading partner. Trade with the U.S. and Alabama will remain very important to the overall continued growth of the United Kingdom’s economic growth in the coming years, Malins noted. Research and development also is key for the United Kingdom’s recovery from the recession. Seventy-five percent of the Fortune 500 companies have offices in the UK. Research and Development, innovation, being an opened economy and the ease of establishing a business are the assets that the United Kingdom offers to the global marketplace.
“Most people don’t know this, but the UK is the leading gateway for the Internet and our innovation in technology has made the UK third overall in the Internet gaming market behind the U.S. and Japan. We created the very popular Laura Croft Tomb Raider and Grand Theft Auto games,” Malins added.
Houston spoke about overcoming the conflict and reputation Northern Ireland had for many years. In fact, internal turbulence did a lot to keep Northern Ireland imprisoned for centuries, he explained.
The Good Friday Agreement signed in 1998 helped Northern Ireland begin down the road to economic bliss despite its past. The United States, represented by former U.S. Sen. George Mitchell, was able to help negotiate the agreement with the feuding organizations.
With overwhelming support of the agreement, Northern Ireland had the economic development opportunities and to change its industry focus on the world stage. As a result the country has become one of the leading producers in biotechnology and aerospace. About 100 U.S .companies have made investments in Northern Ireland, DuPont being the first to invest more than 50 years ago. Northern Ireland is now one of the leading countries in cancer research specifically in oncology, Houston said.
Northern Ireland also serves as the portal for a sophisticated computer system used to get information over the Internet quicker and more efficiently.
“We in Northern Ireland do have a good relationship with Ireland,” said Houston. “Since the signing of the Good Friday Agreement, our country has seen growth in tourism and economic development, foreign investment opportunities.
Northern Ireland has enjoyed investments by American firms for the past 40 years, which makes the US one of the target markets for future economic growth, he added.