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Helen Clark Speech: NZTE Awards

Rt Hon Helen Clark Prime Minister



Sky City Convention Centre AUCKLAND

8.00 pm Thursday 30 November 2006

It is a pleasure to be here tonight to celebrate export excellence and for the formal launch of Export Year 2007.

The finalists and award winners recognised tonight at these, the fortieth, Export Excellence Awards are competitive and innovative businesses leading the way in tough overseas markets.

These exporters and many others like them make an immense contribution to New Zealand's economy.

Our economy is now about 25 per cent bigger than it was seven years ago.

We currently have one of the lowest unemployment rates in the OECD and household income levels have risen on the back of strong job growth.

But one thing which hasn't changed is the proportion of New Zealand's GDP which comes from exports. It has stood still, at around thirty per cent, since the mid 1980s.

That figure puts us well below most other small OECD countries, which tend to have export contributions to GDP of about fifty per cent. Simply put, we need to export more.

Growing globally competitive firms is a key focus of the Government's economic transformation agenda. In the negotiations post election, Labour and New Zealand First agreed that a renewed focus on exporting was needed. In those discussions, the idea of a specific Export Year was born. I acknowledge Rt Hon Winston Peters here tonight for his role in getting the initiative going.

Tonight we are formally launching Export Year 2007. In Export Year, business and government together will make a sustained effort to create a new, higher platform for export growth: The benefits of Export Year will be felt long into the future.

In Export Year we seek to raise aspirations about what New Zealanders can achieve internationally, and to take practical steps to increase exports.

Export Year 2007 will feature initiatives where business takes the lead, initiatives from government, and initiatives where we work together.

To ensure good communication between Government and businesses in the planning for Export Year 2007, the Private Sector Reference Group was established.

It is playing a key role in planning for Export Year 2007, and my thanks go to all those involved, and to all the organisations who've supported Export Year.

Special thanks go to Export Year's Business Champion, Ken Stevens, Executive Chairman of Glidepath Limited. Ken's extensive experience in exporting is an inspiration to others starting down that road.

Two years ago, the government established the Market Development Assistance Scheme.

The scheme has been hugely popular, and indeed heavily over-subscribed since it was set up. This year's funding round closed a month after it opened, owing to excess demand. That was despite the 2006 Budget providing extra funding of $19.8 million in 2006/7, and $14.8 million in outyears.

That's why as part of today's formal launch of Export Year 2007, we are announcing a boost to the Market Development Assistance Scheme.

In the fifteen months from January 1st, there will be a one off boost of $33.75 million to the scheme. $13.5 million of that will be available in the first half of next year, and the remaining $20.2 million will be available in the 2007/08 financial year.

This scheme is a vital component of our efforts to crack key markets overseas. The extra funding will enable us to expand considerably beyond the 320 firms already receiving support.

In other Export Year initiatives, we will be looking at options for extending NZTE's presence in Asia – including a potential extension of the Beachheads programme and the Focus Centres.

We will be looking at expanding a pilot programme which supports new exporters into market, and there will be targeted trade missions led by ministers.

NZTE will be beefing up its business mentoring programmes, to allow the lessons learned by successful exporters to be shared with those who are just getting started.

Tomorrow Ken Stevens, Export Year's Business Champion, will host the first Export Year event, the CEOs and Business Founders Forum.

At the forum, CEOs and founders of more than fifty Kiwi export companies will be brainstorming on what business can do to lift export performance. This discussion, and others like it throughout next year, will feed into export strategies and ongoing policy development.

As well, Chambers of Commerce, economic development agencies, commercial banks and others in the private sector are planning export-focused events over the course of 2007. Many of these events and initiatives will be supported by government agencies.

All exporting companies represented here tonight have a contribution to make to Export Year 2007. You are the key to Export Year 2007's success.

Tonight we celebrate those export successes which have already occurred. The challenge these leading businesses have risen to is the challenge we need thousands more New Zealand businesses to take up to keep our country moving forward.

Now, it is my pleasure to launch Export Year 2007. Let's hear from some exporters about what Export Year means to them.


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