In light of the upcoming national elections, four Kiwi exporters have come together to discuss the issues affecting New Zealand exports and the future of our economy.
The exporters were previous finalists or winners of the ExportNZ awards and from varied sectors, including education, health and beverage and tourism.
All of the exporters at a panel discussion held by the Employers and Manufacturers Association marked the significance of market access and the Free Trade Agreement with China.
Independent China export consultant, former adviser to Douglas Pharmaceuticals and CEO of EasiYo, Paul O’Brien, said despite being skeptical about the FTA with China, recent efforts by the Ministry of Primary Industries (MPI) to mitigate non-trade barriers had softened his stance on the issue.
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“There’s no point having FTAs with non-tariff barriers.”
O’Brien suggests MPI should also be offering small Kiwi companies training programmes to help them break into tricky, diverse markets such as Asia.
Simon Russell, the chief executive of Eagle Aviation Consultancy, also emphasised a need for research and development subsidies to protect businesses providing services. He said while there is enough in place for products, businesses providing services overseas run the risk of losing money over travel and salaries if a deal falls through. Russell said this leaves business owners with little to no offset for further market development or research.
The exporters said while New Zealand’s geographical isolation can be disadvantageous due to businesses facing higher freight costs, our location can also have its advantages.
“Isolation pulls us away from the noise and clutter and helps others see us a lot clearer overseas,” Russell said.
The chairman of ICL Education, Ewen McKenzie-Bowie, said recent cases of fraud among Indian students had made it harder for the sector to attract a diverse group of students.
In February, an estimated 150 students faced deportation over fraudulent visas.
“Anyone who has worked in India has got a dismal visa approval rate because of the problem. So all the pathway potential providers are disqualified because they have a visa approval rate that doesn’t get above that hurdle,” McKenzie-Bowie said.
He said as a result there was a large population of Chinese students in New Zealand, and one of the issues was that “having too many of any one nationality is unbalanced”.
But he said one of the positives of the visa scandal had been improved work rights for migrant students, as those studying for more than 14 hours were able to work 20 hours a week. McKenzie-Bowie said this was behind a huge influx of South American students.
Another key issue the exporters weighed in on was the future of New Zealand’s export economy.
Russell reckons the answer may be in value-added tourism, emulating Dubai.
“Our future is in tourism, which is clean and green.”
He said value-add can initiate the multiplier effect, where customers are attracted to the country by tourism and then sold the add-ons of wine, wool and food.
Similarly, O’Brien said New Zealand would likely have to shift from dairy, with the growing risk that production in China would make exports of our raw materials difficult.
In terms of policy changes, Russell said he’d like to see EMA and ExportNZ lobby for wider Government funding for exports other than dairy.
“All the export money is spent on one sector but there remains a gaping hole for other sectors … ExportNZ and EMA should lobby on behalf of the wider export community.”
He also suggested New Zealand Trade and Enterprise could have more of an active role for smaller companies by offering weekly emails to businesses about opportunities, events or tips on entering markets.
Finalists in the 2017 ExportNZ Air New Zealand Cargo ExportNZ Awards will be announced on May 17.