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Introduction to the NZ China Council


By Pat English

The Council

Some of you may know after 17 years with New Zealand Trade and Enterprise, I’ve moved on and am now the Executive Director of the New Zealand China Council.

The Council was set up and launched by the Prime Minister in February 2012.

New Zealand already has a number of organisations with strong links to China, such as the New Zealand China Trade Association, Export New Zealand and New Zealand China Friendship Society.

The New Zealand China Council was established to support and coordinate the work being done by these organisations and others across the sector. An umbrella group that leaves no one in the shade. The Council is partly funded by government, but it is not a government agency and smilarly, it is part funded by the private sector but is not a private sector organisation.

The Council should be seen by China and New Zealand alike as an independent but interdependent organisation.

Our principle purpose is to ensure the relationship reaches its full potential and remains strong and resilient, now and in the future.

The NZ China Council:

  • Brings together leading New Zealanders from business, the public sector, academia, sciences and the wider community who engage with China
  • Creates a platform for productive, high-level New Zealand China dialogue via regular Partnership Forums in both countries
  • Informs New Zealanders about the relationship by supporting balanced, fact based reporting and informed public debate

The Council is governed by a group of China experts, including:

  • Chair of the NZ China Council; Sir Don McKinnon,
  • Former Prime Minister Dame Jenny Shipley,
  • Sir Graeme Harrison; Chair of IBF and ANZCO,
  • John Wilson, Chair Fonterra
  • Christopher Luxon; CEO Air New Zealand
  • Cathy Quinn, Chair Minter Ellison
  • John Allen, Secretary Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade
  • The Council also have organisations

The make-up of the New Zealand China Council Board includes recognisable names from across the many sectors engaged in the relationship.

The Relationship

Most of this you already know, (which is why you’re in China), but to recap; forty years ago, no one would have guessed the extent of New Zealand’s current relationship with China. China is now the 2nd largest economy in the world. It has the largest foreign exchange reserves of any country, is the largest manufacturer and exporter of goods, and in those last 40 years has lifted more than 500 million people out of poverty.

So even if we did nothing at all to support the NZ China relationship, China’s very existence and current role would still have a huge impact on us here in NZ.

As Kiwis don’t like to be behind the play and prefer to keep ahead. We may not always be an international policy maker, but we don’t always want to be a policy taker. We want to engage with China at a level that benefits NZ to the most optimum level, and that means we want to understand China better and we want China to understand us.

We’ve had more than 300,000 Chinese students graduate from New Zealand institutions in the last 10 years, and have more than 23,000 currently studying in New Zealand. Tourists from China have grown from fewer than 20,000 in 1999 to more than 200,000 in 2013, a number forecast to double to 400,000 over the next 5 years. This suggests we have something of interest which attracts them, making this one of our most financially critical relationhships for New Zealand.

A China that is moving forward is good for the whole world - not just us Kiwis.

The simple facts are that our interaction with China will inevitably deepen and grow, it does not displace any of our long term relationships, and we are not putting all our eggs in one basket. To the contrary, we have many more baskets than ever to work with.

The Challenges

Our bilateral trade with China in the year to 2012 was worth $14.6 Billion, but to put this in perspective, our total global trade over the same period was $93.2 billion.

So our challenges are many:

  • We must help young New Zealanders better understand Chinese language and culture. This is a task of particular urgency.
  • We must ensure business people, including NZ educated Chinese, learn to navigate the Chinese environment more successfully.
  • We must lift the level of preparedness within the public and private sector of the China relationship.
  • And of course we must understand what other countries are doing and learn lessons where they can be learned.
  • Not forgetting of course we can assist China in:
  • Understanding the importance of Maori and Pacific culture within NZ, a third country reach.
  • Understanding NZ’s desire to build and maintain a first class reputation.
  • Understanding that occasional road bumps in the relationship do not derail the whole.
  • Understanding the NZ private sector is not controlled and sometimes barely influenced by the NZ Government.

The Opportunities

A look at the big numbers reminds us just how critical the relationship is to our future prosperity:

  • NZ exports to China were worth $6.9 billion last year, and imports from China were worth $7.7 billion.
  • Chinese investments in NZ are worth $1.8b, and NZ investments in China are worth $900m.
  • Chinese tourists bring in more than $600m to NZ every year, and Chinese students also bring in nearly $600m.
  • And what about land ownership? An assessment by KPMG on gross land area approved for sale in the 3 years to December 2012 has China at 2.1%, compared with UK at 14.8%, and the US at 13.3%. Even Luxembourg, Israel and Monaco each own more than 3 times as much land as China.

These figures could be seen as disproportionate given China accounts for 15% of our bilateral trade and continues to grow in scale and scope. These numbers highlight the need for and the role of the New Zealand China Council; 17 prominent New Zealanders supported by an advisory group of 15 equally prominent New Zealanders, all of whom are committed to the cause.

The New Zealand China Council cannot negotiate for NZ. What we can do is help NZ negotiate with China so the bilateral relationship reaches its full potential.

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