Stephen Jacobi, Executive Director of NZIBF, traveled to San Francisco for APEC Leaders’ week and writes his thoughts on the outcome.

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Relationship with Japan remains critical to New Zealand’s success NZ Herald – 29 October 2009 By Stephen Jacobi

by | Oct 29, 2009 | Trade Working Blog


The Asian region has never exactly been a calm pond.  Security challenges and a burgeoning population guarantee a degree of instability and risk.  But economically the region has continued to perform, even amidst the recent crisis, and has underpinned New Zealand’s own economic performance.

China’s growth has been the decisive factor. In 2008, when the world was entering economic turmoil, China still enjoyed eight percent growth in GDP and is snapping at Japan’s heels to become the world’s second largest economy. Add to the mix India (currently the 12th largest economy in the world) and South Korea and Indonesia (both within the top 20) and there is a genuine tussle for economic leadership taking place across Asia.

Focusing New Zealand’s export and relationship building efforts on these attractive, dynamic economies certainly makes sense. What is more, our efforts have paid off with recently negotiated Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) with China and ASEAN, including Malaysia signed in Kuala Lumpur this week, allowing New Zealand to become more integrated in the Asian region than ever before.

At the same time it is vitally important for New Zealand’s continued success that we also remain focused on one of our oldest and most significant Asian trading partners, Japan.

Although China’s rise to second largest economy in the world is imminent, that place is currently held by Japan. What is more, Japan is New Zealand’s third largest export market after Australia and the United States and we enjoy a long-standing relationship (New Zealand and Japan signed a Treaty of Commerce over 50 years ago) based on mutual benefit, shared values and strong links built up through contacts between business, tourists, educational exchanges and sister city relationships.

New Zealand’s interest in the relationship will be demonstrated by the series of events taking place in Tokyo over the next week.  Over 100 government and business leaders from both countries will meet together at the second Japan New Zealand Partnership Forum on 30 October.  Under the theme “Partnership and the Real Economy” the Forum aims to foster an even stronger economic partnership between the two countries. Other events in the next week include the 36th annual meeting of the Japan New Zealand Business Council, the location of Tourism New Zealand’s giant rugby ball at the foot of the Tokyo Tower and the Bledisloe Cup match at Tokyo Stadium on 31 October.

When it comes to freer trade New Zealand has made only limited progress with Japan in recent years.  Now with the newly elected Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) promising a re-think of economic policy and interested in developing a new East Asian community, and the announcement at the inaugural Partnership Forum of an officials’ process to study a future FTA, there has never been a better time to look for new opportunities with Japan.

The Japan New Zealand Partnership Forum provides the ideal opportunity to engage with our third most significant trading partner, meet with and build relationships with Japanese business leaders and political decision makers, and place New Zealand in the best possible position to reap future benefits.


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