US Business Summit 2022: Changing the dial

Changing the dial

The United States is New Zealand’s third-largest individual trading partner and a major source of foreign direct investment, innovation and research, and tourism. There is significant opportunity to expand the relationship, but moving ahead in today’s uncertain world requires a focus on this key partnership and insight into the current environment.

The macro global economic picture is being adjusted and reworked as the implications of the Covid-19 pandemic, emerging geopolitical fluctuations, and various domestic political and social consequences of changes to production, external supply chains and new consumer concerns and expectations are integrated into forecasting.

One question has gained primacy for business and political leaders within both New Zealand and the United States: How much of the economic recovery and the pursuit of future resilience is focused on building back to what was previously in place as opposed to how much should and is being recalibrated according to new rules, and potential and practicalities?

It is time to appraise and look at the big picture repercussions of the regional and global watershed and focus on exciting bilateral opportunities as we are “changing the dial”.

This one-day summit explored the opportunities for Kiwi businesses with a changing America. It set the stage for how to build an unshakeable foundation in this new climate of business by providing tactical tools for crafting a mindset of innovation, persistence, resilience, and critically – partnership.

The 2022 Summit included

  • Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Trade and Export Growth Minister Damien O’Connor addressed the Summit and provided critical insights into New Zealand’s evolving relationship with the United States and how the dial is changing for business.
  • Moving forward beyond Covid: A high level business panel featuring Myron Brilliant from the US Chamber of Commerce, Air New Zealand chair Dame Therese Walsh and Mainfreight CEO Don Braid unpacked the international business environment and gave their readout on where we are and what lies ahead for New Zealand and the United States.
  • Trade, Ukraine and more. United States Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo and Dr Kurt Campbell from the US National Security Council at The White House talked through the Biden Administration’s policies.
  • Rocket Lab’s Peter Beck headlined a session on New Frontiers featuring the burgeoning New Zealand space industry which is making great inroads together with the US.
  • New Zealand business leaders shared how they are developing products and forming strategic partnerships to succeed and grow in the highly competitive US consumer market.
  • US investors shared what they look for when they invest in the Kiwi “test bed”.


Tim McCready, MC

Summit Co-Chair: Fran O’Sullivan, Managing Director, NZ INC.

Rt Hon Jacinda Ardern Prime Minister of New Zealand

The Prime Minister spoke about New Zealand’s relationship with the United States and shared her thoughts on how New Zealand can navigate geo-strategic challenges particularly in an environment of heightened uncertainty with the emergence of the Ukraine crisis. The Prime Minister is supporting opportunities for New Zealand firms in the US through leading a business mission there later in May.

Moderators: Fran O’Sullivan & Tim McCready

How will the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework assist to facilitate cooperation on shared interests and objectives, such as infrastructure, the digital economy, supply chain resiliency – which are vitally important to New Zealand business and the United States as we look to rebuild and recalibrate beyond Covid? Particularly given the pressures that democracies face in a more heightened geo-strategic environment.

Opening remarks: United States Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo

Secretary Raimondo will be introduced by the Minister for Trade and Export Growth the Hon Damien O’Connor.

Hon DAMIEN O’CONNOR Minister for Trade and Export Growth

Minister O’Connor’s remarks focused on New Zealand’s changing trade and economic relationship with the United States and how we are working together in the Indo-Pacific, including in the context of the Indo-Pacific Economic Partnership.

Summit co-chair: Michael Barnett, CEO Auckland Business Chamber

The landscape for business is fast-changing as Governments focus on reinvigorating their respective economic recoveries as they move toward a “Beyond Covid” approach. This comes at a time when inflationary headwinds, supply chain crunches and the Ukraine crisis add additional complications. This high level business panel unpacked the environment and gave their readout on where we are and what lies ahead.

  • Myron Brilliant Head of International, United States Chamber of Commerce
  • Dame Therese Walsh Chair Air New Zealand and ASB Bank
  • Don Braid Group Managing Director Mainfreight

Moderator: Fran O’Sullivan, Managing Director, NZ INC.

DR KURT CAMPBELL The White House Coordinator for Indo-Pacific Affairs – National Security Council.

Dr Kurt Campbell canvassed the escalating geo-strategic tensions as a result of the Ukraine crisis, security issues relating to the Indo-Pacific, the importance of high-quality relationships and give insight into President Joe Biden’s evolving strategies.


  • Richard Fontaine Chief Executive Officer – Centre for a New American Security
  • David Capie Director – Centre for Strategic Studies Victoria University of Wellington

Moderator: Ben King, Deputy Chief Executive (Policy) at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade

PETER BECK Founder and CEO Rocket Lab
Founder and chief executive of Rocket Lab, Peter Beck, gave the opening keynote for the New Frontiers session at the US Business Summit. Peter is a pioneer in New Zealand’s accession in the space industry, growing to become a leading player in space, redefining the industry with the rapid and cost-effective delivery of innovative, high-quality technology.

Rocket Lab has deployed 110 satellites, with its Electron rocket the second most frequently launched US rocket annually, delivering mission success for commercial and government satellite operators.

Speaking on the eve of the launch window for the CAPSTONE mission to the Moon, Peter shared with Summit attendees how his business has launched New Zealand into the forefront of deep space.

The year ahead is packed with missions, including the first launch to the moon from New Zealand’s Mahia Peninsula. Through this collaboration, Rocket Lab is demonstrating the strong partnership between New Zealand and the United States in this new frontier, as well as the leading role private business can play to forge bilateral relationships and pave the way for new areas of government collaboration.

Peter discussed how Rocket Lab has helped pave the way for New Zealand businesses to think bigger than our own backyard. Last year it listed on the Nasdaq Composite Index and has demonstrated that there is nothing holding New Zealand business back from becoming significant global players in new and exciting industries.

Moderator: Tim McCready

GREG FORAN CEO of Air New Zealand
Kiwi-born Greg Foran had an in-depth knowledge of grocery following a long career in Australia, but taking the helm at America’s biggest retailer Walmart meant leading a company where 1.4m staff operated 4,700 stores that brought in $350 billion each year.

Greg tells his story in taking on the role, what it took to make change at an American icon, and the lessons he learned from outstanding leaders along the way.

Greg also spoke about the principles that have proven true for business success at any scale, including the Air New Zealand he leads today.

Moderators: Fran O’Sullivan

Speakers canvassed the exciting space frontier that Kiwi companies are leading, the work of the New Zealand Space Agency, and developments in aerospace that are helping to build strong links between New Zealand and the United States.
  • Catherine MacGowan Asia Pacific Regional Director, Wisk
  • Andrew Johnson Lead Space Policy and Regulatory Systems New Zealand Space Agency

Moderator: Tim McCready

New Zealand companies – including agricultural players – are expanding their footprints in the US via partnership, investment and the development of niche products.

As the recent Sense Partners’ report on the NZ-US trade relationship “Stability and Diversity in a time of change” shows, by 2020 NZ’s largest export products had become a mix of traditional pastoral-based exports and newer products, such as bottled and bulk wine, kiwifruit, Mānuka honey, and mussels – all distinctly Kiwi products that are not readily substitutable for US-produced items.

Three leading agribusiness firms shared their strategies.

  • Kerensa Johnston Chief Executive Wakatū
  • Komal Mistry-Mehta Director Active Living, Fonterra
  • Dan Mathieson Chief Executive Zespri

Moderator: Stephen Jacobi CEO New Zealand International Business Forum (NZIBF)

  • John Ballingall Director Sense Partners
  • Vangelis Vitalis Deputy Secretary (Trade) Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade

Moderator: Catherine Beard CEO Export New Zealand

US INVESTMENT – What do US investors look for?
Major US companies are expanding their investment footprints in NZ. How much impact does the growing “work from anywhere” culture and NZ’s reputation as a “test bed” for innovation play in investor choices? What more can NZ do to enhance its reputation and gain quality investment from the US?

Vanessa Sorenson, Managing Director of Microsoft New Zealand in conversation with Amcham NZ executive director Mike Hearn took us inside Microsoft’s decision to build hyperscale data centres in New Zealand and skill up Kiwis – including wahine – for the ICT world.

David Downs CEO New Zealand Story

New Zealand Story Group was established to enhance New Zealand’s reputation beyond natural beauty. In a competitive global economy, reputation matters. And it’s important for a country like ours, with an economy that relies on the strengths of its exports, to continue to grow and diversify. The more we can do to ensure we’re all telling a broad, compelling and aspirational story about New Zealand, that’s grounded in our values and resonates with the world, the greater chance we have of attracting people to all that we offer.

Moderator: Tim McCready


Malcolm Johns has been CEO at Christchurch Airport since 2014 and serves as one of New Zealand’s three delegates to the APEC Business Council where he leads the climate working group.

The airport has championed sustainability, in particular climate change, since 2005. It has executed a program that has removed 90 per cent of scope 1 CO2e and 20% of scope 2 CO2e from its business and was the first airport in the world to be independently audited and accredited with the highest level of airport decarbonisation by the World Airport Council.

In this conversation with Fran O’Sullivan, Managing Director of NZ INC, Malcolm Johns shared his company’s journey to be the first airport in the world to be certified as climate positive.

Tom Udall United States Ambassador to New Zealand in conversation with Auckland Business Chamber CEO Michael Barnett

Summit Co-Chairs Michael Barnett and Fran O’Sullivan


Prize draw courtesy of Air New Zealand

Mat Bolland Chief Corporate Affairs Officer Air New Zealand with Auckland Business Chamber General Manager Events and Marketing Natalie Woodbridge

Conference close Tim McCready

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