John Key, Prime Minister of New Zealand: Interview

John Key, Prime Minister of New Zealand

Considering their historic relationship, how can greater cooperation between New Zealand and ASEAN be encouraged?

JOHN KEY: Political will is important, and New Zealand and ASEAN have a significant amount of that. Over the past 40 years our relationship has grown dramatically and we have made real progress in recent years. Most recently, to mark 40 years of diplomatic relations, New Zealand committed to investing more than $200m in the ASEAN region over the next three years. This will be focused on specific areas of mutual interest and aimed at improving the prosperity of our countries and region.

Greater cooperation can also be encouraged through trade. Two-way trade between ASEAN and New Zealand was worth $175m a year 40 years ago. Today it is worth more than $15bn, making ASEAN New Zealand’s fourth-largest trading partner. The region accounts for 13% of New Zealand’s total international trade and our business links continue to strengthen.

Greater cooperation can also be encouraged through people-to-people connections. In 2015 we welcomed more than 140,000 tourists from ASEAN countries to New Zealand and more than 168,000 New Zealanders visited the ASEAN region. Additionally, more than 12,000 students from across ASEAN study in New Zealand, while our aid programme is also helping to build those relationships through scholarships, training programmes and capacity building.

Regarding new trade agreements, what opportunities lie ahead for New Zealand businesses that are exporting to ASEAN?

KEY: The opportunities for New Zealand businesses exporting into the ASEAN region are immense and growing significantly. We have worked hard to encourage potential exporters and the wider community to take advantage of those opportunities because the region is a hugely important part of our future. And New Zealand’s commercial commitment to the region will be reflected in the willingness of key firms to increasingly forge in-country partnerships.

Moreover, once the ASEAN-Australia-New Zealand Free Trade Agreement (AANZFTA) has been fully implemented, 99% of New Zealand’s goods exported to our most important ASEAN markets will not be subjected to tariffs, providing a strong basis for growth.

How significant is New Zealand-ASEAN trade, and in which sectors do you see the greatest opportunities for New Zealand companies trading with ASEAN over the next two years?

KEY: ASEAN is already New Zealand’s fourth-largest goods trading partner after China, Australia and the EU. The region takes more than 10% of our goods exports, and two-way trade accounts for 13% of New Zealand’s total trade, totalling almost $6bn in the year to March 2016.

Dairy, ships and boats, and meat were our top goods exports to the region. In return, New Zealand imported more than $9bn worth of goods from the ASEAN region, mainly mineral fuels, vehicles and electrical machinery.

Primary industry goods have traditionally been one of New Zealand’s strengths, but New Zealand businesses are identifying new opportunities, and in 2015 we exported NZ$1.1bn ($753.4m) in services to ASEAN. The AANZFTA provides a strong base on which to build this, and we are pushing for the services commitments within the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership to be even more comprehensive. I have little doubt that New Zealand’s trade with ASEAN will continue to grow as our economies continue to develop together.

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