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PM Speech to Success & Innovation Awards Dinner

Rt Hon Helen Clark

Prime Minister

Address at Annual Success & Innovation Awards Dinner of the American Chamber of Commerce in New Zealand, Carlton Hotel, Auckland, 9.00 pm Wednesday 2 November 2005

Thank you for inviting me to present awards again this evening. This is the fifth time I have come as Prime Minister to celebrate the successes of companies trading between New Zealand and the United States.

We know the United States market as one which is highly discerning. Succeeding in it requires continual innovation, agility, an acute awareness of market trends, and, often, sheer volume of supply. Our best companies rise to these challenges. Their success is critical to New Zealand’s export performance, and to our overall economic performance.

As the world’s largest economy the United States will always be a key trading partner for New Zealand. It is our second largest market, taking almost fifteen per cent of our total exports.

Last year we sent more dairy, beef, and seafood products to the United States than to any other country. The United States ranks among our top five markets for sheepmeat, forestry, fruit and vegetables, and is the second largest purchaser of our non-agricultural goods.

In turn, the United States is a vital supplier of goods and services into New Zealand, and a major source of foreign direct investment. Last year, almost twelve per cent of the foreign direct investment we attracted came from the United States.

Every year there are new and exciting stories of Kiwi companies breaking into the United States market. Take Cabco, for example, which has signed a deal to supply Wal-Mart with 15,000 of its electronic shopping carts. I’m told Cabco is the first New Zealand supplier to make it on to Wal-Mart’s books. Let’s hope they pave the way for others, as Wal-Mart is the world’s largest retail company with 3600 stores in the United States alone.

It’s worth highlighting the success of our wine exporters in the United States market too. In the year to June 1996 the United States imported over $1.5 million of New Zealand wine. By the year to June 2005, annual sales value had risen to over $113 million – a huge increase.

There are many other export success stories, where New Zealand companies have teamed up with United States counterparts to widen their distribution channels, take advantage of new opportunities and ideas for boosting productivity, and access new knowledge and technologies.

This year saw the largest New Zealand presence yet at BIO 2005 in Philadelphia, the world’s leading annual biotechnology convention. Pete Hodgson led the New Zealand delegation of 47 companies and organisations, which was centred around New Zealand Trade and Enterprise’s New Zealand New Thinking pavilion.

While the United States market is generally open to us, it would be helpful to have greater access for those agricultural products where quotas and tariffs still exist. There are, however, fewer bilateral trade irritants between New Zealand and the United States than in the past. We have, for example, no outstanding WTO cases and no anti-dumping or counter-veiling duties.

New Zealand and the United States share very similar perspectives on trade policy. We both want to open up markets, and encourage international trade; and we both accord the WTO multilateral negotiations the highest priority. The United States recently made a significant offer on reductions in domestic support in the Doha negotiations, which we applaud.

The strength of our relationship and shared perspectives was highlighted by the visit to New Zealand in August of the US Agriculture Secretary, Mike Johanns. His trip here was a great opportunity to showcase New Zealand's primary sectors, to outline New Zealand's wish to enter bilateral FTA negotiations with the United States, and to engage at a high level on the WTO agriculture negotiations. I understand that Secretary Johanns commented positively to other agricultural and trade ministers on New Zealand’s farm reform experience at a WTO negotiation meeting on agriculture after his visit.

There continues to be good Congressional and business support for a US-New Zealand FTA. Such an agreement would be in the interests of both countries. While the trade policy agenda in Washington is a crowded and complex one, the government will continue to advocate New Zealand’s case to the Administration, as I know this Chamber will too.

A strong relationship with the United States is important to the government. We are engaging constructively with the US across a wide range of issues in the Asia-Pacific region and further afield where we share similar interests. I had a good discussion last week with Assistant Secretary of State Chris Hill in Port Moresby on these subjects, and on ways in which we could work together more effectively to ensure that both countries derive the most value from our relationship. From the government’s perspective, we see the United States as one of New Zealand’s oldest and closest friends. I look forward to conveying this message when I see President Bush at APEC in Korea this month, as I also look forward to welcoming new Ambassador McCormick when he arrives in Wellington next week.

Two weeks ago, the government I lead was sworn in for a third term in office. A lot of things have gone right for New Zealand in the past six years, with economic growth well exceeding the OECD average, unemployment being the lowest in the Western world, and our country again ranked by the World Bank as top in the world for ease of doing business.

The switch to domestic led growth, as the dollar’s rise has constrained exporting, however, has put significant pressure on the current account. So has the mismatch between the profitability of foreign investors’ operations in New Zealand and the lesser returns from Kiwi investments offshore.

The government has a big agenda ahead of it on infrastructure, skills, trade policy and promotion, and a review of the structure of business taxation. The goal is to secure New Zealand’s prosperity in the global economy for the long term. Already there has been a lot of engagement with the private sector on lifting productivity, an area where New Zealand does lag behind other advanced economies. Improving our export performance is closely linked to productivity improvements.

I believe we need to be working for a broader national consensus on how New Zealand can improve its economic performance. We need to mobilise the skills, ideas, talents, and passion of New Zealanders as a people. The government’s doors are open to those with good and practical ideas – and to the visionaries too.

Tonight we celebrate successes of companies which are excelling offshore in the very demanding American market. In previous years, we have seen companies like ZESPRI, Peace Software, Airways Corporation, Pulse Data, and Tenon profiled in these awards – and becoming role models for others. Tonight’s winners will also inspire others to succeed.

I congratulate all tonight’s winners on your success and thank you for the contribution you are making to New Zealand.

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