As a small country relying on exports, New Zealand can’t get rich selling things to ourselves. If we want to continue to diversify and grow our economy, create more jobs and lift wages, we need to back our exporters and continue to open doors to the rest of the world. We’ve done this through successfully negotiating free trade agreements with countries including China and Korea and through the Trans-Pacific Partnership. These agreements have and will continue to create significant new trade and investment opportunities for New Zealand and make it easier for Kiwi companies to do business overseas.
Last week, New Zealand hosted around 500 trade delegates in Auckland for the latest round of negotiation talks for the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP). RCEP involves 16 countries, including six of New Zealand’s top 10 trading partners – China, Japan, Korea, India, Australia and Malaysia. Negotiations have been underway for more than three years. Good progress has been made but there’s still more work to be done before an agreement can be reached. It is a deal that could have significant trade and investment opportunities for……… New Zealand. These 16 countries have a combined population of more than 3 billion people and represent around 27 per cent of global economy. One sector that has benefited significantly from free trade agreements is the primary sector, which is the backbone of our economy. When it succeeds, New Zealand succeeds. Our kiwifruit and wine growers, for example, are reaping enormous benefits. New export figures released last week for the primary sector show solid growth, with export revenue in the year to June 2016 up around $1 billion on the previous year despite the current challenges the dairy sector faces. Last week, alongside a number of National MPs I attended the National Agricultural Fieldays at Mystery Creek, near Hamilton. This event, which showcases what’s best about the primary industries, is the biggest event of its kind in the southern hemisphere. It attracts around 130,000 people through the gate, with visitors from around New Zealand and the world.
As Prime Minister I’ve been attending for a number of years and was again impressed by the technology and innovation that was on display. The National-led Government’s Budget 2016 had a strong focus on science and innovation, with a $761 million Innovative New Zealand package. This will help to ensure our primary sector and farmers remain at the cutting edge of technology and new advancements. The National-led Government will continue to support the primary sector, through free trade agreements that are opening our products to new customers around the world. This will help to build a stronger, more prosperous New Zealand.