NZIBF Board and guests meet on 25 November 2020
NZIBF Chair Malcolm Bailey has finished a 5-year term and passed the baton to Philip Gregan (CEO, NZ Winegrowers). Here is Malcolm’s final annual report which was presented on 25 November.
I am pleased to present my fifth report on the activities and achievements of the NZ International Business Forum (NZIBF) for 2019-20, the thirteenth year of operations.
Last year I said I could not recall a worse time for trade policy: this year has definitely taken things even lower as the Covid-19 pandemic has decimated some populations, upended markets and ruined economies. Given the damage that has been inflicted, it is pleasing to note that New Zealand’s trade has held up rather well, with markets by and large remaining open – at least in a regulatory sense – and the anticipated new wave of protectionism largely held at bay. As I write a prospective change in Administration in the United States may herald a return, if not completely, to normalcy then at least to more rational settings for US trade policy, particularly in regard to the World Trade Organisation (WTO). The recent signing of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) – alas without India – is an achievement that sends a positive message about the importance of global trade. We were hoping for a much greater dividend in terms of market access but, with the withdrawal of India, the only RCEP country that New Zealand does not already have a trade agreement with, stymied this ambition. We plan to devote effort next year to thinking about the role we can play in developing further the relationship with India.
The pandemic has taught us that open markets and the smooth functioning of supply chains matter for global welfare and prosperity.
The pandemic has taught us that open markets and the smooth functioning of supply chains matter for global welfare and prosperity. The New Zealand Government is to be congratulated for the way it led an innovative response to supply chain connectivity by negotiating arrangements with several partners and keeping in close touch with business. In New Zealand we have been reminded anew of the strength of our traditional export industries which have been holding our domestic economy afloat. Protectionism and narrow national interest have not gone away and the US/China stand-off has continued to cast a shadow over the global economy. More than ever the global Leaders need to return to seeing trade and investment, and the rules underpinning these, as mutual self-interest which benefits everyone, rather than a game of winners and losers.
Over the last year NZIBF has once again worked closely with the Government and its agencies particularly the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) to develop co-operative approaches to overseas markets. In October 2019 an NZIBF delegation joined then Trade Minister Parker for useful trade policy discussions with governments and private sector counterparts in London and Berlin. Our intention to return to the UK and Europe this year has been thwarted by Covid. As well as RCEP, we have followed closely negotiations to conclude the China FTA Upgrade and have stressed the importance of continuing to manage relations with China as well as the United States with care and diplomacy. This year we were pleased to join the NZ China Council in sponsoring a study of the trade relationship with China which served to debunk some of the myths about an over-dependence on that market.
There is no doubt however that New Zealand always needs to look to new markets of opportunity. We remain strong supporters of a future FTA with the European Union but are concerned that long-standing differences over market access remain to be resolved. We see value in a future NZ/UK FTA and are following this negotiation closely. With the likely conclusion of RCEP and new arrangements with Europe and the UK being pursued, we see a need to consider new FTA partners further afield in hitherto, at least for New Zealand, uncharted territory such as Africa and Eurasia: we have a research project underway to identify some future long term possibilities.
As in previous years, NZIBF has been active in leading business advocacy for all these major trade negotiations, through submissions, regular liaison with officials and business allies and media and public commentary. We have upgraded our
Trade Works website, continued to develop our social media platforms and have to make the case for trade and openness to the public at large, including through a number of public addresses, videos and regular blogs. Thank you Stephen Jacobi for being the highly articulate and credible face for NZIBF in much of this interaction.
Since 2009 NZIBF has provided policy advice to the three New Zealand members of the APEC Business Advisory Council (ABAC). This decade-long arrangement was renewed at the end of 2019 until 2022. We thank the ABAC Members for their efforts and have been pleased to welcome Rachel Taulelei, Malcolm Johns and Toni Moyes to their roles this year. New Zealand is chairing APEC in 2021 and this gives us a unique ability to lead the region’s thinking about the economic recovery post Covid. We extend our best wishes to Rachel Taulelei as incoming ABAC Chair for 2021. We look forward to close engagement on matters of importance to us, including WTO, market access, non-tariff barriers, sustainability and the digital economy.
The NZIBF Board met four times last year and I should like to thank my fellow Board members for their continuing support. Our membership has remained stable this past year. We thank also our associate members for their continuing engagement at a time of considerable stress. We have continued to provide funding and directors to the NZ China Council as a means of aligning our efforts in this key market. The Board is also grateful for the commitment and professionalism of our executive team Stephen Jacobi, Fiona Cooper and Stephanie Honey, who are amongst the foremost thinkers and advocates for trade in New Zealand and globally.
We congratulate Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern on her election victory and welcome the emphasis she is placing on trade as a means to re-start the economy. We thank former Trade Minister Parker for his efforts on our collective behalf and welcome our friend Hon Damien O’Connor to the role of Minister for Trade and Export Growth. As always our association with talented officials in MFAT brings dividends to our work.
Having served as NZIBF Chair for five years it is now time for me to pass the role to another from our membership. I have thoroughly enjoyed my tenure and am grateful for the support I have received. As Chair of the Dairy Companies’ Association (DCANZ), I would like to remain on the Board for the foreseeable future.
The way ahead for New Zealand is not easy. As we slowly get on top of the health situation and the world moves to recovery there is a lot of work to do, as our Strategic Plan reminds us, “to generate wealth for New Zealanders by helping ensure that New Zealand enterprises are fully integrated and engaged in the global economy and New Zealand’s global competitive position is maximized”.