Anderton speech to Chinese coop reception
All China Federation of Supply and Marketing Cooperatives reception
It’s a pleasure to welcome you tonight, and particularly to welcome our visitors from China, members of the All China Federation of Supply and Marketing Cooperatives.
You could not have picked a better time to be here.
Our relationship with China is in the forefront of our minds today, with the signing of the historic trade agreement between our countries.
The historic nature of the agreement is symbolised because no one before now has made a deal like this one with China.
It is historic because other developed countries are watching and see that China is willing to negotiate.
It is historic for us because it is the most important new trade agreement New Zealand has signed in decades.
China is one of our most important trade partners and the wider North Asia region is by far our single-most important trading region.
That trade is our lifeblood. We depend on the income we receive from our exports, and we depend on the advantages we enjoy by buying your exports.
We made this agreement to open up and develop economic opportunities for our businesses still further.
Business relationships are built on much more than commerce and contracts.
As New Zealand businesses in China keep finding, and as I know from Chinese businesses we welcome here…business connections are built on personal relationships.
They flourish when we know each other and where we build trust and understanding of each other’s strengths.
The trade agreement signed between New Zealand and China this week is symbolic of a close working relationship.
It symbolises a relationship growing stronger, and with great mutual benefit.
It could not be more fitting that one of the first events following the deal is this one, focusing on the cooperative sector.
You’ll find in New Zealand that our cooperatives are some of our most important businesses.
Cooperative companies go back to some of our earliest days of agricultural exporting.
The first was a cheese cooperative set up in Otago in 1871. Maybe they got the idea from a Babylonian king who set up a form of cooperative tenant farming over four millenia ago.
It’s more likely they got the idea from the first modern cooperative, which was set up in Rochdale, England about the same time as New Zealand was being formed as a modern state.
The Rochdale cooperative was set up to allow its members to buy supplies collectively and sell them to members without undercutting each other on price. The profits were then returned to members. The principles of that first modern co-operative remain the principles of co-operatives today:
They are owned and democratically controlled by the people who use the cooperative’s services.
They return profits to members in proportion to the members’ use of the cooperative, not in proportion to an investment or share of ownership. In other words, returns flow to the most active and productive, not to those with the greatest capital contribution.
And cooperatives exist primarily out of a recognition of members’ needs for affordable and high quality goods and services.
New Zealand has built much of our economy on these principles.
For example - In the 1930s we had more than four hundred separate co-operatives in the dairy sector alone.
They began to join forces and eventually that led to the creation of our largest company - by far: Fonterra, itself a cooperative.
It is twice as big as any other New Zealand enterprise and on its own it earns a fifth of our total export revenues.
Today ninety-five percent of our milk is processed by co-operatives. Alongside Fonterra there are other significant players like Tatua and Westland Dairy.
In the horticulture sector, Zespri, our kiwifruit international corporation is a highly successful farmer-owned co-operative.
Just over half of our meat is processed by farmer-owned co-operatives.
The co-operative structure is a central part of agricultural excellence in New Zealand.
We found that industry adapts best when everyone who has a stake is involved in its development.
Because our structures have been cooperative, they have allowed the innovative and highly productive small (mostly family-owned) farm to be remain at the heart of our agricultural enterprise. And yet they have also allowed these small business units to pull together to create a competitive advantage for New Zealand in agricultural skills, knowledge, science, research and development.
Our excellence in agriculture is no small matter for New Zealand.
We have a saying that our agricultural industries are the ‘backbone’ of our economy.
In no other industrialised nation is agriculture such a high proportion of total exports as in New Zealand.
Even in manufacturing, our main sectors are derived from primary production, such as food and beverage, and wood manufacturing.
More than ninety percent of our dairy and seafood production, and more than eighty percent of our meat production, is exported. Agriculture makes up half of all our entire exports.
Not only is agriculture important to us, its importance is growing.
Productivity in our primary industries is growing faster than in the average of the rest of our economy.
Since 1970, our economy has grown at an average of 2.5 percent a year.
Agriculture has grown at an average of 3.6 percent a year.
It is very significant that so much of our economy is based on cooperative structures.
Their success is living proof that cooperative enterprises can be highly efficient, successful and lasting businesses.
And so I welcome you here to look at cooperatives in New Zealand.
I am very proud of everything our coops have achieved.
The importance of agriculture to us also makes this week’s trade agreement very significant.
As minister of agriculture I am very excited about the prospects for significant growth in our involvement in China.
For example, the agreement includes new mechanisms for recognising sanitary and phytosanitary measures that are used to protect us, along with animals and plants, by keeping out pests and disease. They help to ensure food is safe for consumption.
Our biosecurity is crucial to New Zealand’s economy, and the new measures should allow for more streamlined resolution of issues.
The agreement will deepen ties between our countries and that will be great for strengthening our businesses and for strengthening our economies.
We’re making fantastic progress in many other areas, too - with mutual benefit for us both.
For example, many cooperation projects are under way in education and science.
So thank you for coming along to this reception tonight and for helping to celebrate our strengthened relationship and the exciting prospects for the future.
As we stand here at the dawn of a new relationship, I look forward to many more examples of the strengthening links between New Zealand and China.