Northern Ireland Exports – figures and considerations

HMRC recently released the figures showing the UK’s import and export trade in the year ending 2017 and the data makes for interesting, and positive, reading.

Northern Ireland’s exports for the year came to £7.8 billion, being a 12% increase on the previous year. The Republic of Ireland accounted for almost a third of that trade (and made up more than half of the total exports Northern Ireland sent to the European Union), with the USA being the second largest importer of goods from Northern Ireland. The £1.7 billion worth of goods making their way west across the Atlantic represented an increase of 41% more than the previous year.

In terms of commodity groups making up these figures, £2.6 billion’s worth of Machinery & Transport Equipment was the largest group of exports, with £1.6 billion’s worth of Chemicals exports being the second largest group.

There are a number of issues which take on an added significance when exporting to customers in another country, and exporters would do well to give some thought to these before entering into contracts on their normal terms:

  • Customs – who will pay for the duties, and what happens if there is a delay in the goods passing through customs? Arguments about who pays the duties will be particularly significant if perishable or time-sensitive deliveries are being made.
  • Payment – where your costs are incurred in one currency, but the price is paid in another, currency fluctuations between the date of pricing a contract and the money coming in may impact (positively or negatively) upon your return, and need careful consideration.
  • Law & jurisdiction – if any disputes arise over the delivery, in whose country would the action be brought before the courts, and whose laws would apply? In short, who will enjoy the benefit of ‘playing at home’?
  • Signature / Execution – are there any local requirements that require an agreement to be signed or executed in a particular way? If the agreement is to be executed as a deed, it may be that a company seal is required in addition to signatures.
  • Language – if the contract is to be written in different languages, which version should be used to settle any translation issues?
  • Risk & title – when delivery will involve a ship or a plane, and where goods which have not yet been paid for need to be shipped many miles away, the questions of who is responsible for the goods and who owns them become crucial. Is an easier way to deal with the delivery to require payment in advance and for the customer to arrange transport itself?

With Northern Ireland’s Economic Strategy identifying export-led growth as a key driver of Northern Ireland’s economic development, and potentially more markets soon opening to Northern Irish companies, companies here will hopefully be reaching for their cross-border supply terms and conditions more and more.

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While great care has been taken in the preparation of the content of this article, it does not purport to be a comprehensive statement of the relevant law and full professional advice should be taken before any action is taken in reliance on any item covered.