Chairman’s report to the AGM of the New Zealand International Business Forum Graeme Harrison, 3 December 2009

by | Dec 3, 2009 | Reports & Publications

I am pleased to present this report as Chairman of the NZ International Business Forum marking our third full year of operations.

Over the last year we have substantially increased our work and impact.  We took on a new role in relation to the APEC Business Advisory Council (ABAC), successfully initiated our Korea project, made further progress with Japan and further developed the influence, credibility and reputation of NZIBF as a powerful voice in support of New Zealand’s international business.  Having for the last three years worked consistently to implement the strategic plan we adopted on establishment in 2007 we will early next year adopt a new strategic plan to guide the next phase of our operations.

I should like to express my thanks to my fellow directors for the valuable time and financial support they have given our organisation over the last year.  I am pleased to welcome those new directors who have joined us – John Loughlin (Chairman, Zespri) and Gary Judd QC (Chairman, ASB Bank).  During this year the Board was fortunate to meet on several occasions with the Minister of Trade, Hon Tim Groser, who joined us in Seoul and whose continuing strong support of our organisation is deeply appreciated.  A meeting with the Prime Minister, Hon John Key, who was with us in Tokyo, is planned following this year’s AGM.  In April we hosted a discussion with a range of senior officials and senior business leaders from beyond our core membership to discuss how the export sector could contribute to the economic recovery: we were grateful that the Minister of Agriculture, Hon David Carter, could attend this meeting along with the CEOs of MAF, the Prime Minister’s Department, Treasury and NZTE and senior representatives of MFAT and MED.

In April 2009 at the request of the Minister of Trade the NZIBF Executive Director took over responsibility for providing policy advice to the three New Zealand members of the APEC Business Advisory Council (ABAC).  This brings a significant new dimension to our work.  It helps ensure that the ABAC agenda aligns with our own and that outcomes from these meetings are fed back to the wider business community.  ABAC also has relevance to the broader trade policy agenda to which NZIBF is already contributing through the Japan and Korea projects and the ongoing dialogue with the Government on trade and investment priorities.  In view of the synergies with NZIBF’s broader vision, I was pleased when the Board decided to allocate additional funding to ABAC outputs alongside that of MFAT to ensure that the job was well done.  The news from this year’s APEC Summit held recently in Singapore that the United States intends to engage with members of the Trans Pacific Partnership including New Zealand was most welcome.

In June 2009 the first ever Korea NZ Business Roundtable was held in Seoul in association with the Korean International Trade Association (KITA) and with the close co-operation of the New Zealand Embassy.  The Roundtable was well attended on both sides (72 delegates in total) and succeeded in its primary aim of demonstrating New Zealand and Korean business commitment to the NZ/Korea relationship.  The Roundtable was held as the first round of FTA negotiations got underway and this provided a useful focus for the gathering.  A number of areas of existing and potential co-operation were highlighted including in areas such as sustainable agriculture, “green growth” and ICT which are of key interest to the Koreans. Co-operation with KITA was excellent and feedback from participants indicates the event proved a worthwhile first foray into Korea for NZIBF.  We plan to maintain a focus on Korea and envisage a holding a second Roundtable in 2010.

In October 2009 we organised the second Japan NZ Partnership Forum in Tokyo.  Building on the success of the inaugural event held in May 2008, this year’s Forum attracted 94 high level delegates on both sides.  Under the theme “Partnership and the Real Economy” the Forum formed part of series of events coinciding with the official visit of PM Key to Japan.  The discussion at the Forum was more frank than last time suggesting a growing degree of comfort in meeting in this format. While the main focus of discussion was on the broader relationship and its potential for expansion, plenty of support was expressed by business and academic representatives for the concept of a NZ/Japan FTA which continues to be a major goal for NZIBF and which will require our ongoing attention.  We envisage further engagement with Japan over the coming year in which Japan is chairing APEC and a further Forum in 2011.

Thanks are due to the New Zealand Government, which, through MFAT, has supported the development of both Japan and Korea projects and to the sponsors who provided the funding to ensure these events were held to the highest possible standards.   In addition to our operating funding sponsorship of $250,000 was raised for these two events indicating the significant support that the private sector is putting into NZIBF activities.

While Korea, Japan and ABAC have provided the main focus for NZIBF activity in 2009 we have also monitored other key developments particularly with regard to the WTO, ASEAN, China, India and the negotiation of the Trans Pacific Partnership. In 2010 we plan to develop a new focus on Europe as the third priority in our current strategic plan.

Our views on trade and investment issues have been widely carried in the press as well as on our website www.nzibf.co.nz. Our website is a useful reference point for anyone with interests in international trade developments and a quarterly email is now sent to over 300 subscribers providing regular updates on our activities.

Lastly I must acknowledge the considerable skills Stephen Jacobi brings to us as our Executive Director.  He is largely the public face of NZIBF and has led the organisation ably since our establishment.  He is well supported by Associate Director Gabrielle Rush.

To all those who have assisted us over the last year I extend my thanks and best wishes.

Graeme Harrison
Chairman

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