Sir Don McKinnon couldn’t have picked a better person than Pat English to be the NZ China Council’s inaugural executive director.
The former NZ Consul-General and Trade Commissioner in Guangzhou has long been a stalwart in the bilateral relationship. English is deeply versed in New Zealand’s trading relationship; knows heaps of smaller firms as well as the larger NZ companies endeavouring to grow profitable footprints in China and importantly, will not be afraid to standup for the relationship.
The new executive director is known to have been ‘surprised’ at the lack of open business support within New Zealand for adherence to New Zealand’s FDI regime when the Crafar farms fiasco was at it heights.
In future, council members – which include high-profile business people as well as senior officials and cultural leaders – can expect to be shoulder-tapped by English to speak up on contentious issues and introduce some rational viewpoints rather than let the vacuum be filled by hysterical sentiment.
English displayed his prowess at the inaugural China Business Summit in Auckland last October where he convened a vibrant session with newish exporters in the China space.
Gabrielle Rush – who is one of New Zealand’s leaders in business diplomacy and a former MFAT official – worked alongside Sir Don to get the council in place. Rush has done a great job assisting Sir Don identify then meld together the strong personalities on the council.
The first task on English’s plate is to finalise arrangements for the council’s China debut at a partnership forum in Bejing during Prime Minister John Key’s forthcoming official visit.