Forming New Friendships

By Brierley Penn

Right now, New Zealand is in a strong position to export to China. However, a number of obstacles stand in the way of increasing our trade and improving relations with the growing nation.

One of our faults lies in the fact that New Zealanders tend to take a very casual approach to conducting business, which often does not sit well with our Chinese counterparts. Concrete action must be taken to secure our relationship while the window of opportunity remains open. Going to China and talking up the positive aspects of New Zealand will not be enough. Our business leaders need to arrive in China with deals in hand, prepared to make concrete investments in the country.

NZ has generally been viewed in China as a fair and just country, particularly following the Sanlu crisis, in which we have the Chinese government the chance to blow the whistle on what was going on, substantially improving our reputation.

However, much work remains to be done in order to create a true brand in China. Our size means that we have difficulty competing on the international market, and thus are not a country which features heavily in the considerations of many Chinese people.

Kiwis need to become better at marketing themselves. While the Chinese may have developed a love affair with red wine from Australia and Europe, New Zealand, can move in and establish themselves as the leading provider of premium white wine. “Kiwi firms need more direct contact, to tell the story of New Zealand. We have a good story to tell and their middle class is growing fast,” says David Mahon.

We are seen by China as a relatively independent and non-aligned nation. But Mahon warned that, as the pressure builds from both Asia and the US, something of a cold war could develop between the respective superpowers. It is important, therefore, that we cannot be seen to distant from China, nor too close to the US.

Having said this, America is an important market for New Zealand, and is viewed by many Kiwis as an old friend. But it is clear that it isn’t necessary to leave an old friend to make a new one. FTA agreements with both China and the US can provide complementary benefits to our country, allowing us to grow our presence on a globalized level.

New Zealand is a southern nation, and needs to operate that way. And although Australia is the easy market to go to, we need to be bold and look further afield to achieve truly significant results.

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