Address to the 34th joint meeting of the Japan New Zealand Business Council, Tokyo, 16 November 2007 Graeme Harrison, Chairman, New Zealand International Business Forum “Strengthening Japan New Zealand Relations”

by | Nov 16, 2007 | Speeches

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(Slide 1)

It’s a pleasure to be with you today and I appreciate the opportunity to address this 34th Joint Business Council meeting.

I’d like to offer my congratulations to the organisers of this conference and our distinguished co-chairs.

My theme today is strengthening Japan New Zealand relations.

I intend to address this theme from my perspective as Chairman of Anzco Foods, but most particularly as the Chairman of the newly established New Zealand International Business Forum.

The International Business Forum is the initiative of senior business leaders in New Zealand who see the strengthening of the business and economic relationship with Japan as our top priority.

Japan and New Zealand are long-time friends and partners.

In the delightful Japanese garden in the grounds of the Residence of the New Zealand Ambassador in Tokyo, there are several statues which are believed to have belonged to the 19th century Japanese leader, Ii Naosuke.

(Slide 2)

For the benefit of the New Zealanders present, it was Ii Naosuke who in 1858 signed the Harris Treaty, which for the first time gave access to Japanese ports to American traders and began the process of opening Japan to the outside world.

Why these statues should find themselves in the Ambassador’s garden is because the former site of the Residence was once owned by Ii Naosuke.

These statues remind me of a few things relevant to our discussion today.

The first is the importance of history.

New Zealand and Japan don’t go back as far as the Harris Treaty: our own Treaty of Commerce was signed a hundred years later, in 1958 – we will be celebrating its 50th anniversary next year.

This year we are celebrating the 55th anniversary of diplomatic relations.

This weekend’s New Zealand Paradise Festival will be the occasion for a great celebration just as the concerts at the recent Japan Music Fair have been in New Zealand.

The second thing those statues tell me is that it requires leadership, like the leadership of Ii Naosuke, to continue to move a relationship forward.

ANZCO Foods in Japan

My own company, ANZCO Foods, has been committed to developing its involvement in this market, and in concert with our Japanese partners and customers, for more than 20 years.

(Slide 3)

Our company was established in 1984 and commenced life as a sheepmeat marketing company here in Japan.

When I first came to Tokyo to set up the business the company started at the very beginning.

While we were initially able to use the office of the New Zealand Meat Producers Board, our then owners, we had no commercial staff.

I was fortunate to be able to recruit a young Japanese executive and we worked together to get the business established.

Four years later Japan announced plans to liberalise beef market access.  Subsequently we were able to form joint venture partnerships with Itoham Foods and Nippon Suisan Kaisha (Nissui).

Both Japanese partners later became ANZCO shareholders and today, with Directors and Management, own the company.

I am particularly grateful to Kenichi Ito, now Chairman of Itoham Foods, for his unfailing support over the years.

ANZCO Foods has grown to become a global business with a turnover of over NZ$1 billion and 2,500 employees.

Coincidentally beef and related products account for the majority of our business today.

We have seven overseas offices, seven meat processing facilities and three food manufacturing sites, as well as a jointly owned cattle feedlot with Itoham.

This feedlot is the source of practically all New Zealand’s grain fed beef exports to Japan.

We are New Zealand’s sixth largest agri-business and the country’s seventh largest exporter overall.

In Japan nearly 24 years after establishment we are still the only foreign based company which physically imports and distributes the bulk of meat products we supply to this market.

In Japan we have offices in three locations – Tokyo, Osaka and Sapporo.

I am delighted that with me today is the current President of ANZCO Japan, Makoto Kinjo.

He is an example of international links: he is a Japanese national who received his university education at the same university as I did in New Zealand.  Further, he has a New Zealand born wife.

ANZCO’s experience in the Japanese market has provided the platform to develop opportunities in other markets in the Asia Pacific region and beyond.

It has also assisted the development of stronger relationships for our shareholder partners, Itoham and Nissui, outside Japan.

Itoham and ANZCO have two 50/50 joint venture companies in New Zealand producing grain fed beef and manufactured meat products.

Nissui in 2001 became the joint owner, with the Maori people of New Zealand, of the country’s largest seafood company, Sealord.

Nissui’s purchase of half of Sealord considerably assisted President Kakizoe in developing the company’s “global links” strategy which has driven a substantial expansion in business worldwide.

Three of ANZCO’s directors, including myself, have served on the Board of Sealord.

Japan NZ relations

I draw attention to Anzco’s experience in Japan to indicate the value that can be derived if the right relationships are forged and the right commercial structures are put in place.

The same is no less true at the national level.

Japan and New Zealand are natural partners in the Asia Pacific region.

(Slide 4)

When Prime Minister Helen Clark opened the New Zealand pavilion at the Aichi World Expo in 2005 she had this to say:

“Japan is truly a Pacific powerhouse, with its highly sophisticated and technologically advanced economy.  But Japan is also very aware of the pressure we human beings have placed on our global ecosystem.  Thus this Expo focuses on how we can reconcile economic and social progress with maintaining the integrity of our environment.  This is a noble and timely objective”.

I am struck that Prime Minister Fukuda used similar language when he addressed the recent meeting of the Japan Australia Business Conference:

“I believe it is possible for humankind to continue to pursue economic development while ensuring harmony with the global environment and that we need to find a way to achieve compatibility between environmental protection and economic development”.

(Slide 5)

Both Prime Ministers emphasise values and interests shared by both countries.

They go beyond the economic sphere, encompassing broader policy co-operation as well as a vast network of people to people links through tourism, academic and research exchanges and sister city links.

When it comes to trade I hardly need remind this audience that since 1962 Japan has consistently ranked as New Zealand’s second or third largest trading partner.

The question for us today is whether the relationship is as good as it can be and delivering the maximum value to both countries.

Even the strongest of relations need to be constantly updated to take account of changes in the global and regional economy.

(Slide 6)

Japan New Zealand relations are no different.

We are old friends but the world is changing rapidly.

That’s doubtless why when Prime Minister Clark and then Prime Minister Koizumi met in 2005 they agreed to take steps to re-invigorate the relationship.

New Zealand’s investment in Aichi was part of that effort.

An officials’ working group was established to look at ways of delivering on the Prime Ministers’ undertaking: it will report later this year.

The New Zealand International Business Forum welcomes these initiatives.

What’s more we are prepared to play our part alongside both governments and in close co-operation with the Business Council.

NZ International Business Forum

Engagement with the rest of the world is critical for New Zealand’s future.

(Slide 7)

Expanding international business is vital for increasing productivity, raising living standards and lifting overall economic performance.

The Government has a clear role to play in putting in place the right external relationships as well as positive economic policies and negotiating improved market access.

But ultimately business is done by business: it is we who have the commercial interest, the market knowledge and the contacts and networks that will ensure these efforts are focused on the main priorities for business growth.

The Board of the International Business Forum is drawn from New Zealand’s leading internationally oriented companies and from the country’s peak business organisations.

The companies cover the dairy, meat, seafood, kiwifruit, technology and services sectors and the business organisations represent New Zealand’s export, manufacturing and services industries.

The International Business Forum marks the first time that the Chairs and CEOs of these organisations have come together in this way.

As we develop our strategy for promoting New Zealand’s international business engagement we intend to focus on a small number of key projects.

I am pleased to be joined here today by Stephen Jacobi, our Executive Director, who is making his third visit to Japan this year.

I said earlier that Japan was our top priority.

We had no hesitation in coming to that conclusion.

Of course we support the concept of a future free trade agreement and welcome the discussion taking place on that theme at this meeting.

We can see the advantages that will accrue to Australia once their negotiation with Japan is completed.

At the same time we are realistic that starting a similar negotiation with Japan may take some time.

Our immediate interest in strengthening relations is not driven by any short term trade outcome.

In the longer term it is quite obvious that new economic arrangements can only come from a strengthened relationship across the board.

Our immediate interest is focused on the big picture of the relationship.

The first step is to recognise that this relationship needs to be seen in terms of its contribution to our respective national goals – to economic growth and stronger communities at home and security and sustainable development in our region and beyond.

In New Zealand we must engage our people with the reality of Japan as a “Pacific powerhouse” as the Prime Minister put it.
And in Japan we must do more to tell the story of a relationship which delivers real value for the Japanese people.

Towards a Japan NZ Partnership Forum

I have come here today not just with fine words but with a specific proposal.

(Slide 8)

Working closely with the Business Council, with government agencies and with a group of distinguished advisors in both countries, the International Business Forum proposes to invite around 60 or so prominent leaders from government, business and the wider community from both countries to meet together in Tokyo in May 2008 at the first ever Japan New Zealand Partnership Forum.

New Zealand already has similar structures which operate in respect to our other key relationships, Australia and the United States.

Japan too has high level dialogues with a range of countries including the United States, Australia, Canada and the European Union.

Our experience is that these events can provide an effective independent platform for leaders from both countries to identify common approaches to global and regional challenges.

Our specific proposal is that the Japan New Zealand Partnership Forum should take place in Tokyo on Friday 9 May 2008.

In recent months we have consulted widely with government agencies and business organisations in both countries and have been very pleased with the level of support that has been offered.

I am pleased to tell you today that the Keidanren has invited us to hold the Partnership Forum at its conference centre, the Keidanren Kaikan.

This is a prestigious venue and fully reflects the high level nature of the discussions we intend to hold.

I must also thank the Ambassadors of both countries, Ambassador Takahashi in Wellington and Ambassador Kennedy here in Tokyo for the advice they have offered.

We want to attract senior level participation at the Forum from business, government, the academic community and the media.

Ambassador Kennedy has brought together an informal group of advisors, all eminent and influential Japanese personalities, who have been generous with their time and advice.

I met with members of this group earlier in the week to discuss our initiative and how the Forum programme might be structured.

We propose that the Partnership Forum carry the theme “New Thinking, New Partnership”.

(Slide 9)

It will examine ways in which we can work together to promote growth and sustainable development, to address the challenges of climate change and sustainability and to promote innovation in business practices and new technologies.

It is important that the Forum complement the valuable work underway in this Business Council.

The Council maintains a strong focus on the expansion of two way trade and investment.

The Forum will focus on how the two countries can address new business challenges at the regional and global levels.

Indeed I can see that one practical outcome of the Forum could be to expand significantly the support for the Business Council and its work.

Where else might this dialogue lead us ?

I think it important to learn to walk before we try to run:  we can be happy enough if a high level group of this nature can be successfully brought together in Tokyo in six months time and if the discussion is both challenging and robust.

Hopefully however those who participate will see the value of future gatherings of this type and will be enthused and motivated to become advocates of the relationship in their respective countries.

Conclusion

Strengthening Japan New Zealand relations will require leadership and commitment.

That has been our experience at Anzco Foods over the years but our efforts have been well worthwhile.

At the national level the relationship today is strong and of value to both countries but it could be even stronger.

There is a risk that if we do not continue to take steps to nurture our partnership, it could lose relevance and momentum.

That’s why the New Zealand International Business Forum proposes to hold the Japan New Zealand Partnership Forum here in Tokyo on 9 May next year.

Strengthening the relationship will require the coming together of different stakeholders in the relationship from government, business and civil society.

The Partnership Forum’s theme “New thinking, new Partnership” and the high level Japanese and New Zealand leaders who attend will help keep moving this relationship forward.

I opened these remarks by speaking about Ii Naosuke, who once owned the statues in the garden of the New Zealand Embassy here in Tokyo.

(Slide 10)

It was Ii Naosuke who signed the Harris Treaty and pioneered the establishment of Japan’s international relations.

I hope that many of you will take the opportunity to join us at the Partnership Forum in May next year and that something of the spirit of Ii Naosuke will accompany our efforts.

(Slide 11)

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