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Pacific Trade Expo

15th February 2006

The New Zealand Pacific Business Council is determined that the inaugural Pacific Trade Expo at the TelstraClear Pacific Events Centre in Manukau on March 13 and 14, will provide a major catalyst to the development of trade in the region.

The expo is the first major initiative of the NZPBC, which was established last year with the primary objective of promoting and facilitating two-way trade with the nations of the Pacific.

Supporting sponsors of the expo are the Manukau, Waitakere and Auckland City Councils and the Pacific Islands Trade and Investment Commission.

New Zealand’s merchandised trade with Pacific countries – at $1.1 billion – is clearly not insignificant and that figure does not take account invisibles – such as consultancy and services . But according to NZPBC chair Gilbert Ullrich, the potential for further growth is substantial.

“That New Zealand needs to boost its returns from the export sector is well understood,” Mr Ullrich says. But what is often not appreciated is the opportunities to increase export sales which exist in what might be described as our ‘backyard.’ ’”

The markets of the Pacific region, are, individually, relatively small. But viewed collectively, they are amongst New Zealand’s top six export destinations.

The Pacific is resource rich. There is timber, minerals and fish in abundance. And the vast Pacific seabed is the world’s richest.

Significantly, Asian nations - among them China, Malaysia, Taiwan and Japan – are showing increased interest in the strategic potential of the Pacific region.

China recently established an embassy in Suva and that country’s commercial profile is becoming increasingly prominent in many other countries across the region.

New Zealand’s Pacific Trade Commissioner, based in Fiji, Michael Greenslade, says it is very much in the interests of Pacific countries to transform themselves from aid-based to trade-based economies.

“They need export growth – just as we do,” Mr Greenslade says. The plain fact is that the more Pacific countries can earn from exports – the more potential they have to buy from us.“

And he says moves to create closer economic relationships in the region hold great promise.

“There are those in Hawaii, which is potentially the biggest market in the Pacific, who are suggesting a role independent of the United States in some form of regional trade grouping,” Mr Greenslade says.

The Expo has the strong endorsement of the Prime Minister Helen Clark and of Winnie Laban, Associate Minister of Pacific Island Affairs and Associate Minister for
Economic Development.

Tim Gibson, Chief Executive of New Zealand Trade and Enterprise, says the Expo provides New Zealand companies not presently selling offshore, with the opportunity to explore export opportunities “on their own doorstop” at a reasonable cost.

“One of this economy’s most urgent needs is to get more of our small-to-medium enterprises into exporting.

“While the prospect of trying to gain a market foothold in Asia, Europe or the United States for instance, might well seem too daunting for many companies, taking that first step into one or more of the smaller markets of the Pacific would be much less intimidating,” Mr Gibson says.

Concurrent with the Expo, there will be seminars on business topics, organised by the Pacific Islands Trade and Investment Commission and the domestic based Pacific Business Trust.

ENDS

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