Xenophobia and the Obstacles it presents to our Growth

China Business Summit 2012

By Brierley Penn

“The debacle over the Crafar Farms must never happen again,” said David Mahon, of Mahon China Investment Management, who claimed it made New Zealand appear on the international stage as a, “small and bigoted country”.

The sentiment appeared to be shared amongst the great majority of political and business leaders at the 2012 China Business Summit, who felt that it was necessary to face the realities of our situation, and recognise the benefits, and in fact, the necessity, of foreign investment in New Zealand.

“I am not sure New Zealand has decided what it wants from China. We need capital for infrastructure, but there is no sense over how we engage with the Chinese,” said Tim White of KPMG.

A common misconception amongst New Zealanders, according to Mahon, is that Chinese citizens want to own our land. On the contrary, he claims, they really only want fibre and protein, as opposed to the land on which this is grown. China cannot produce enough protein, wool and trees, and NZ offers a source of supply, albeit a relatively small one, for these products.

Speakers acknowledged xenophobia has done our country a great deal of damage. It is vital that politicians and business leaders come together to inform New Zealanders about the fantastic opportunities that China offers our country.

Experts noted countries in South America are our most significant competition, with a greater willingness to open their borders to Chinese firms. China has billions of dollars to invest in international markets, and we should welcome the opportunities that this brings to attractive investment to New Zealand, they said.

Cathy Quinn of Minter Ellison ended her comments with a warning to those in attendance, “By the time we decide to be friends with China they may have decided to go and invest elsewhere.”

This is a loss which our country simply cannot afford.

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