Prime Minister John was on-cue, on-message and importantly on-time using his six minutes in front of Chinese President Xi Jinping to send a message that New Zealand is a committed partner to China and has much to offer in areas where the two countries complement each other.
It’s five years ago to the day since NZ signed the bilateral free trade deal with China – and Key did not waste the opportunity to chart..
Key’s directness was in sharp contrast to the off-pace and rambling addresses by some of the other 13 leaders to share the platform at the opening plenary session of the Boao Forum on Hainan Island. Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard disappointed. Gillard opted for a “Middle-Power” speech instead of
One of these is trade.
Five years ago to the day, China and New Zealand signed a bilateral free trade agreement.
Since then, trade between our two countries has grown very strongly.
China is now New Zealand’s biggest source of imports, and our second-biggest export destination.
In fact, since the FTA was signed, New Zealand has traded more with China in five years than the combined value of all previous trade between our two countries.
Our FTA is also a contribution to regional economic integration, which is progressing in a number of ways.
China and New Zealand are foundation members of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership negotiations.
And China’s year as APEC host in 2014 will provide additional opportunities for our two economies to work together in progressing a free trade area across Asia and the Pacific.
Apart from strengthening economic relationships, FTAs can also bring about greater understanding between countries.
The New Zealand-China FTA, for example, has helped underpin closer ties between our two countries, involving, for example, scientists, academics, students, holiday-makers, and cultural groups.
Our neighbourhood is becoming increasingly interconnected, in all these sorts of ways.
The gathering of so many leading international figures today simply demonstrates that.
We all have a shared interest in the growth and development of the Asia-Pacific region and in how we can best contribute to that.
Populations in this region are growing strongly, and they are getting more prosperous and more aspirational.
They will want to know they can feed their families with safe, nutritious food – particularly protein – from reliable and trusted sources.
I believe the challenge over the next 20 years will not be about countries competing to meet a limited demand for high-quality food – it will be about countries striving to ensure there is enough supply.
That is where I see New Zealand playing an important role in this region.
We are world-class, highly-efficient food producers.
And we have very high food safety standards, backed up with world-leading technology, so consumers can have the utmost confidence in our products.
We are not a threat to domestic producers in any country. Far from it.
We are the world’s biggest dairy exporter, but that is because we have a small domestic market.
We produce two to three per cent of the world’s dairy supply, and global demand is also growing at two to three per cent a year. So effectively, the world needs to add New Zealand’s total production each and every year.
The future for New Zealand – across all foods, not just dairy – is in partnering with other people and other countries in our region.
We are already doing that and will continue to do so in the future.
We can offer the knowledge gained over years of experience in agriculture, horticulture, food science and technology.
We may be small, but where we have areas of expertise, we have very deep expertise.
We are teaming up to produce food in China and in other countries. Fonterra, for example, is producing high-quality, nutritious dairy products here in China for Chinese consumers.
We are teaming up to add value to New Zealand-produced commodities, as for example is happening in Canterbury between New Zealand’s Synlait and China’s Bright Dairy.
We are working with other countries to improve the productivity of their domestic sectors.
We are helping build brands that stand for high quality and proven safety.
As a partner for prosperity, New Zealand has a lot to offer the region.
Alongside our expertise in food production, we also have technical, scientific and engineering expertise that can help other countries develop and add value to their natural resources.
We are a high-quality, cost-effective partner in educating the next generation of leaders from across the region.
We have a transparent and highly-regarded business environment.
And our changing society means we have a shared stake in the region and its future.
Asian New Zealanders are our fastest growing ethnic group and, in little more than 20 years, are expected to make up
15 per cent of New Zealand’s population.
New Zealanders see the Asian region as important to New Zealand’s future, and understand the value of developing even closer cultural and economic ties.
So we are firmly locked into this region, and our connections are growing deeper each year.
We want to work with our partners here in China, and across the region, to ensure prosperity and well-being for this, and for future, generations.