Driving export growth is central to our economic recovery and it is a key focus of the Government's Action Plan for Jobs. Enterprise Ireland (EI) has established a new Potential Exporters Division, a key measure in the Action Plan for Jobs. Its role is to stimulate greater activity within companies across all regions and to reorient those demonstrating real growth potential from the domestic to the international market place.
Enterprise Ireland's 29 overseas offices and international networks have an important role to play in helping EI's client companies to access export markets, through positioning them to meet the needs of the specific international market and guiding them in the right direction regarding market contacts and introductions to potential buyers. Through this network, EI clients have secured 294 new buyers this year, while 316 buyers have been attracted to engage with indigenous companies on international business opportunities.
Another essential support to underpin the export ambitions of SMEs is developing a wider network of EU Free Trade Agreements. Free trade and more open markets for trade and investment are essential to help our exporters sell more and into more diverse markets. We know from our own experience that open markets and free trade generate economic growth and jobs. Improving trade opportunities in key markets, and especially with those with whom we already have strong export links, will be a stimulus for recovery. As 90% of future economic global economic growth is set to be generated outside Europe, it is more important than ever to expand the network of EU bilateral Free Trade Agreements. These agreements increase market access for our exporters by reducing barriers and costs to trade and investment and expanding access to public procurement markets helping exporters to consider exporting to unfamiliar high growth markets with considerable consumer spending power.
Government policy is to build on the strength of our existing markets and diversify into new ones. Ministerial-led Trade Missions are an integral part of this process, particularly in countries where government to government contacts are a prerequisite for doing business and I have first-hand experience of the importance of these Trade Missions for Irish companies seeking to win overseas contracts.
EI client companies achieved record levels of exports of €15.2bn in 2011. This exceeds the pre-recession record levels of 2008 and is the highest ever annual export gain achieved by Enterprise Ireland client companies.