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Importance of Asia increasing - Asia 2000 Report


27 November 2003

Media Release

Importance of Asia increasing

One job in five in New Zealand is underpinned by the Asian region, said Asia 2000 Chair Sir Dryden Spring in the foundation's 2002/2003 annual report which was released today.

Sir Dryden commented that if Asia was removed from New Zealand's economic equation, much of the life style we now take for granted would fall into question. "Our economic turnover with Asia is huge," he said. "Exports account for $10 billion, imports for $11 billion, tourism for $1.5 billion and education for $1.1 billion.

Add all that together and, with our total GDP standing at around $110 billion, my rough estimate is that the Asian region now underpins about 20% of the New Zealand economy. That's one job in five."

"Asia will become more important to New Zealand. Our economy will become even more densely entwined with those of our Asian neighbours," Sir Dryden added.

Sir Dryden also emphasised the importance of Free Trade Arrangements with Asia in the report. "Free Trade Arrangements with our Asian neighbours should be at the top of our national priorities, and real progress needs to be made in constructing a bridge between the ASEAN Free Trade Agreement and the Australia-New Zealand Closer Economic Relations Agreement.

"The potential value to New Zealand from assuring our trade with the dynamic economies of Asia could be even more important in the long term than a Free Trade Agreement between New Zealand and the United States," he said.

Asia 2000 Executive Director, Christopher Butler also noted New Zealand's interdependence with the Asian region.

"The Asian region has been faced with challenges as the global business climate, security pressures and SARS have led to social and economic difficulties within different countries. But the challenges of Asia have had also an impact on New Zealand, underlining once more how critical the region is to this country," said Mr Butler.

"Both New Zealand and Asia have addressed important questions. New Zealand faced a re-emergence of public discussion on the role and extent of immigration, which led in turn to increased interest in New Zealand's new Asian communities. There was also an increased public focus on New Zealand's export education sector.

"Asia 2000 has responded to these challenges by strengthening efforts to build bridges between New Zealand and the peoples and countries of Asia. Asia is crucial to New Zealand's future as well as to its present. Asia 2000 will do all it can to make sure New Zealand has the skills for effective partnership, now and going forwards."

The report said that in the year to 30 June 2003, Asia 2000 supported around 100 projects in education, media, cultural and business fields and provided research and analysis on a range of Asia-New Zealand issues.

Highlights for the 2002/2003 year included:

Education

* Providing 39 grants under the education programme for New Zealanders to undertake undergraduate and post graduate scholarships in Asia, for teachers to attend in-country study programmes and for tertiary institutions to undertake research.

* Co-ordinating education initiatives in association with the Lantern Festival and Diwali Festival of Lights, including lantern and rangoli making workshops for teachers and teaching units on the Asia 2000 website.

* Sustaining the Singapore scholarship programme, which enables outstanding undergraduates to study for four years at the National University of Singapore (NUS). The programme has had 12 students participating, with three scholars graduating this year. The programme received support from the Lee Foundation of Singapore and Singapore Airlines.

Business

* Re-locating the business programme manager into a permanent Asia 2000 office in Auckland in February 2003.

* Conducting two successful seminar series during the year. The first was on doing business in Taiwan and the second on the burgeoning Indian IT and biotech sectors.

* Providing support for the New Zealand APEC Business Advisory Council.

Media

* Helping 14 journalists and media organisations travel to Asia in order to upgrade the quality and quantity of news on the region in the New Zealand media.

* Supporting a student exchange programme between the Massey University School of Journalism and the Phnom Penh Post.

Culture

* Organising the inaugural Diwali Festival of Lights one-day celebrations in Auckland and Wellington, which attracted a total of 70,000 people in the two centres.

* Organising the fourth annual Lantern Festival in Auckland, which attracted over 120,000 Aucklanders over three days. The Lantern Festival received public acknowledgement with an award from Creative New Zealand.

* Providing 38 cultural grants.

Executive & Research

* Establishing a dedicated policy advisor position in 2002/2003.

* Publishing papers on immigration and export education, both of which were widely circulated and well-received.

* Developing two web-based directories of New Zealand-based research - one on international education and the other on immigration.

Asia 2000 was established in 1994 to build New Zealand's links with Asia through developing New Zealanders' knowledge and understanding of the countries and peoples of Asia.

If you would like a hard copy of the annual report please contact Asia 2000 on 04 471 2320 or asia2000@asia2000.org.nz . The first section of the annual report can be seen on the Asia 2000 website at http://www.asia2000.org.nz/about/ann_report/index.shtml.

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