US ambassador stresses need for strong Stormont voice
THE new United States Ambassador to the UK has stressed the need for Stormont to have its own "strong voice" as he visits the north for the first time.
Robert 'Woody' Johnson, who is also owner of the American football team the New York Jets, will today meet Northern Ireland's political leaders and representatives from civic society.
Writing in The Irish News, the billionaire investment banker highlights the strong historical links between the region and the US.
Ambassador Johnson also notes how "hundreds of thousands of Americans" holiday in the north, many drawn by the "legendary hospitality".
But tourists are not the only ones attracted to Northern Ireland, he says.
"You are also one of the UK's top destinations for international investors – particularly from the United States, which is your biggest source of foreign investment," he says.
"American companies aren't just investing here, they're setting up shop. There are now over 175 American companies which have opened up here in Northern Ireland – creating about 23,000 jobs for local people."
Against the background of the recent decision by US authorities to impose a heavy import tax on Bombardier planes in a dispute involving rival maker Boeing - potentially threatening thousands of jobs in Belfast - Ambassador Johnson says the US has a "broad, deep and long-standing" trading relationship with the north, which he says "will get even stronger long term".
"Trade and investment is important for a vibrant and prosperous Northern Ireland," he says.
"It is also extremely important to have a strong voice from Stormont representing your interests at this critical juncture in the UK's future. – this is something I'll be discussing with political leaders during my visit."