A YEAR FOR RECONNECTING

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Executive Director Stephen Jacobi offers his annual end of year round up. Amidst some challenging times, he reports some light in the tunnel.

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NZIBF 2022 Chair Report

by | Dec 1, 2022 | Reports & Publications

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ANNUAL GENERAL MEETING 2022

CHAIR’S REPORT

I am pleased to present my second report on the activities and achievements of the NZ International Business Forum (NZIBF) for 2022-23, our fifteenth year of operations.  At the outset I would like to thank Members for your support for me as Chair and our talented executive team for their hard work, particularly over the Covid period.

These remain difficult times as pandemic, war and inflation combine to make doing business around the world extremely difficult for exporters, with non-tariff barriers on the rise. Conditions back home remain equally challenging on a number of fronts, not the least of which being securing the staff we need to run our operations. While market returns remain encouraging, we are at a real risk of not being able to capture all the opportunities that exist.

While the Auckland lockdown impacted NZIBF operations at the end of last year, and meant that the second half of New Zealand’s year as APEC and ABAC Chair had to be held virtually, we got off to a running start in 2022 with a number of useful events including a dialogue with the China Centre for Globalisation on China’s ambition for CPTPP and a webinar with EU experts to discuss the EU Green Deal and Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism.  In April we held a valuable online meeting with the Lord Mayor of London and delegation to discuss opportunities arising from the NZ/UK FTA. We had planned to follow this up with other online engagements with UK counterparts but their interest in this kind of meeting has definitely waned and we need to get back to meeting in person as soon as possible.  It has been good to see the number of business events increasing – we sponsored a well-attended US Business Summit in May and a number of Members participated in the China Business Summit in August.   

During the year we have continued to maintain our focus on the major trade negotiations welcoming the conclusion of the NZ/UK FTA in March, the better-than-expected outcome from the World Trade Organization Ministerial Council meeting (MC12) in June.  The conclusion of the NZ/EU FTA in July was positive for many sectors, including horticulture, wine and seafood, but not unfortunately for dairy or meat, representing a lost opportunity for those key export industries.  We continue to monitor closely moves towards ratification of these agreements and the “mega-regionals” CPTPP and RCEP as well as the Digital Economy Partnership Agreement (DEPA).

In the last year we have increased the attention we pay to opportunities in the digital sector – a new Digital Trade Working Group has been established with the participation of Members and associates and is developing a work programme to identify the barriers to paperless trade. We issued a background paper, prepared by Adrian Macey, on the interface between trade and climate policy and plan to refine this focus next year.

We continue to give thought to new FTA partners, building on the research we issued in June 2021.  The outlook for future FTAs however looks uncertain:  the United States shows no signs of wanting to re-join CPTPP and the newly minted Indo Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF) contains no market access elements, although may provide some benefits for trade facilitation.  India remains a partner with which there is an urgent need to expand relations: while an FTA may not be on the cards, we are investigating what other actions can be taken by NZIBF in partnership with the Government, to move this relationship forward. 

At a time of rising geo-political tension, New Zealand’s relationships with both China and the United States remain critically important and increasingly difficult to manage.  We are pleased to support the work of the NZ China Council, where we have three Board appointments, and have expressed to the Government our appreciation for their careful management of the relationship.  We welcome the new leadership of the NZ US Council and are keen to maintain our engagement, particularly as IPEF negotiations get underway.

New Zealand’s host year of APEC and ABAC concluded on a high note at the end of 2021.  We were pleased to congratulate the NZ Members, Rachel Taulelei, Malcolm Johns and Anna Curzon, supported by our own Stephen Jacobi and Stephanie Honey, for their outstanding leadership reflected in their comprehensive final report to APEC Economic Leaders. The report under the theme of “Tāngata, Taiao me te Taurikura – People, Place and Prosperity”, advocated a number of key interests of our Members, including WTO, FTAAP, digital trade, sustainability and making globalisation work better.  ABAC plays an important role in socialising key issues and ideas with business counterparts across the region. In August of this year NZIBF agreed to a further two years of support and funding for ABAC, in association with the Government, until December 2024. We have also agreed to host the first meeting of ABAC in Auckland under the US Chair in February 2023. We are grateful for the opportunity to co-operate with the Government and its agencies, especially MFAT, in this way.

To support our advocacy work, we have continued to good effect our regular media and public commentary. The upgraded Trade Works website is a rich source of information on New Zealand’s global trade interests and our own activities. We are active on social media and have increased our following on Twitter and LinkedIn this year. Our suite of videos featuring commentary from key figures in international trade has achieved a wide following.

The NZIBF Board met four times last year and continued the past practice of meeting with Ministers, especially Trade Minister O’Connor, senior officials and diplomatic representatives.  We extend our thanks and best wishes to our former Chair Malcolm Bailey (DCANZ), Bruce Cameron (Zespri) and Andrew Bashford (Westpac) who left us this year and were pleased to welcome former Alternate Member Kimberly Crewther (DCANZ), former Alternate Member Michael Fox (Zespri) and Reuben Tucker (Westpac). We are delighted to see our membership growing with A J Smith (TradeWindow) and Mike Pretty (Heinz Watties) joining the Board and ASB and Silver Fern becoming associate members. We thank all our associate members for their support and have been pleased that they could join us at several events this year. As always the Board is exceptionally well served by our Executive Director Stephen Jacobi, who is ably supported by Stephanie Honey (Lead Staffer, ABAC), Glen Candy (Project Manager) and Christine Connon (Executive Assistant).  Our finances are well managed by the team at Business Central.

While the times are tough, our organisation has an active forward agenda, is in good heart and playing an active role across multiple issues to support and deepen New Zealand’s integration in global markets.

Philip Gregan

Chair

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