By Prime Minster Chris Hipkins
In the six months I’ve been prime minister, I’ve put enhancing trade front and centre of my priorities. That’s because the success of our export sector means success for the whole country.
Furthering our Closer Economic Relationship with Australia, bringing the United Kingdom Free Trade Agreement into force, and signing the European Union FTA have been central to my own international travel. Gaining better access to more of our products is a key part of our plan to grow the economy.
Our government has delivered some of the best progress on international trade agreements of any New Zealand government. The proportion of our total exports covered by Free Trade Agreements has expanded from 52.5% in 2017 to an estimated 73.5% once the recently signed EU agreement comes into force.
That means strengthening and deepening our existing trade relationships too, and the recent trade delegation I led to China showcased the kind of progress we can make when business and government work together on the global stage.
There’s no doubt that a visit from a New Zealand prime minister helps to open doors for our exporters, and I was pleased to witness a number of new agreements that will help to increase our exports across a diverse range of goods and services, from kiwifruit to pet food to personal health and wellbeing services.
And it’s paying off. Visiting China with a delegation of some of our best businesses built connections and opened doors. That’ll mean more opportunities for trade in the coming years as the growth in China’s middle-income earners accelerates.
It always gives me a great buzz to see quality Kiwi products from our primary sector on supermarket shelves overseas, and we saw plenty of Kiwi businesses thriving in the huge China market.
Our recently active NZ-UK FTA gives our dairy and red meat sectors significantly improved access to the UK market for the first time in nearly 50 years. And our Europe visit locked in a free trade deal worth around $1.8 billion a year.
Last week, under our chairmanship, we welcomed the UK into the CPTPP family. The Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership is worth $60bn in two-way trade with partner economies, and provides significant benefits and opportunities for our exporters. Adding the UK will only see those economic opportunities for growth and recovery further increase.
Figures like those are precisely what’s needed to drive our economy’s recovery, and are a key part of my economic plan. They’re a good start, but there’s more we can do as a government to drive trade growth as well as insulate ourselves from emerging risks.
We all know that our clean, green sustainable reputation is important in supporting the value of our exports. Whenever I talk with our trading partners, I’m struck by the remarkable rise in overseas consumer concern around climate and sustainability.
In conversations with wine buyers who service London’s major restaurants, for example, what they increasingly want from us is a strong and authentic back story. The sustainability and unique cultural stories that underpin our wines set them apart. It’s the same for our other food products.
That’s why we need to keep up the momentum when it comes to tackling climate change. As the rest of the world forges ahead, New Zealand can’t afford to lag behind.
If we get it right, we’ll be able to command higher prices and grow our market share. If we get it wrong, the risk is potentially disastrous damage to our international brand – with real economic consequences.
It’s a complex issue and I certainly won’t claim perfection on the government’s part.
Ongoing dialogue and partnership are the best way for us to make progress.
I know the sector is feeling the pain of the global and weather challenges of the past three or so years. We have a responsibility as a country to support our primary exporters and everyone who has shouldered the burden of those challenging events. The government is committed to that. We want to bounce back stronger than ever and, working together, I know we can do just that.
I’ve always believed that if you work hard, you should be able to get ahead and create a better life for yourself and your family. That’s why I’ve been so focused on creating the economic conditions that generate good, well-paid jobs that help to unlock opportunities for Kiwis.
We’re an exporting nation, and I know how important it is for the government to pull out all the stops to secure access to international markets. Success for our export sector means success for the whole country.
My commitment is to lead from the front on trade. I’ve promised to lead at least two trade delegations a year to existing and emerging markets to maintain the momentum for as long as I have the privilege of being prime minister.