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PM Speech at Business Lunch Marriot Hotel Cairo

12.30pm Thursday 29 November 2007 (Cairo)
11.30pm Thursday 29 November 2007 (New Zealand)

Rt Hon Helen Clark
Prime Minister

Address at Business Lunch Marriot Hotel Cairo


Thursday 29 November 2007

Ministers for the Arab Republic of Egypt
Friends from the Egyptian business community including our former Honorary Consul Elhamy Elzayat
New Zealand business representatives

I am pleased to be here with you today and to be visiting Cairo to open officially the New Zealand embassy. The new Embassy is an important step forward in building relations between New Zealand and Egypt.

With the opening of the Cairo embassy we are seeking to put more effort particularly into developing a mutually beneficial trade relationship, and stronger educational and cultural links between our peoples.

Of course there has long been a steady flow of New Zealand travellers coming to Egypt to see the treasures of this country – helped by the likes of Innovative Travel and Emeco Travel. But there is not yet the same flow of Egyptian visitors to New Zealand to see our stunning natural heritage and the dynamism of our young country on the move. I hope this will change now that we have a better chance to talk to and project ourselves to Egyptians

As I see it the first task for New Zealand in developing a deeper relationship with Egypt is to present ourselves as we are these days. Many in Egypt, I’m sure, see us a big sheep and dairy farm in the South Pacific. These are very big sectors in our economy, but there is much else.

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Today we have a sophisticated and very open economy and we have become a diverse multicultural society. As just one instance of this I recently celebrated Eid at our Parliament Buildings in Wellington, joining with members of our growing Muslim communities.

While agricultural exports remain vital to our global trade, we have also become a highly efficient provider of a wide variety of goods and services to international markets. Tourism competes with the dairy industry in earning capacity.

The creative dimension of our economy is flourishing and ranges from ICT innovation to the arts, with the latter playing a big part in both reflecting and defining New Zealand’s unique identity.

New Zealand’s economy is growing – over the past eight years at a faster rate than either the European Union or the OECD. The World Bank rates us as one of the easiest and most straightforward countries to do business in. UNICEF ranks us highly for educational quality and achievement.

We know that to succeed, as a relatively small and distant country, we have to be strategic, innovative, smart and well connected with our overseas partners.

Which brings me back to our lunch here today. The reforms carried out by the government of Prime Minister Nazif have been bold and substantive. The opening up of the Egyptian economy which has occurred in the last three years has increased the interest of New Zealand companies in this market. Where once, Egypt was seen as closed and compliance-heavy, it is now being re-evaluated as a more open and attractive market.

I am pleased to see representatives of current, and I hope future, trading relationships in this room. Looking around I see representatives of our mega-dairy corporation – Fonterra – the world’s largest seller of internationally traded dairy products, as well as some of Fonterra’s most important customers. We also have leaders in the meat and food importing business here with us. We value our close relationship with you.

Then there is ICT. Egypt has both the scale and the demand for technology solutions that make it an attractive partner, not least for our companies already engaged in the wider Middle East region, like 4RF with mobile wireless solutions. Then there is the co-operation between Egyptian and New Zealand telcos, Telecom, and Vodafone New Zealand – which has just opened a call centre in Smart City here this morning.

New Zealand has a strong software sector with growing strengths in niche applications in healthcare, supply chain management and point of sale systems. Our edge lies in technical innovation and our ability to adapt rapidly within a low cost structure. We are pleased to be working with Egyptian partners in the healthcare sector. Fisher and Paykel Healthcare and Orion are helping to improve healthcare systems in Egypt through innovative technology. This is a valuable and promising area of our trading relationship.

International education services form an increasingly significant part of our overall export economy. I’m pleased that the educational sector – both Egyptian and New Zealand - is represented here today.

We are welcoming increasing numbers of students from the Middle East, especially from the Gulf states. They are sent by governments and families who trust both the quality of the education and the welcome offered to Middle East students in our country. In welcoming overseas students, we know that we also stand to benefit from the long term friendships and connections which develop with our country.

We are also providing education services on the ground in the region. New Zealand education providers such as Cognition Consulting and Polytechnics International New Zealand have developed a rich body of experience and education links through their work with Gulf countries. For example, Cognition Consulting is involved in the education reform in Qatar and the UAE with the self-managed schools program. In Oman the New Zealand Tertiary Education Foundation is helping create a university of applied science. Polytechnics International New Zealand Ltd (PINZ) is establishing the Kingdom of Bahrain’s new national polytechnic.

We would like to build similar links with educational development in Egypt.

There are opportunities in quality assurance, in e-learning, and in technical and vocational training. There are also prospects in professional development and skills training. As well, in New Zealand we offer attractive PhD programmes at local fee levels for many international students.

Infrastructure and related services is another sector where New Zealand companies are interested in the opportunities on offer in Egypt. It is pleasing to see companies like Planhorse Ltd, and AUCom, and Construction Technology Ltd showing here today their interest in the Egyptian market. New Zealand’s technical proficiency aligned with a practical problem-solving approach is a winning combination.

The New Zealand Government is keen to develop a more modern framework for our trade with Egypt through an updated Joint Trade Commission. I hope that Trade Minister Rachid will visit New Zealand early next year. I look forward to welcoming him to Wellington ideally with a business delegation too – and to our hosting a meeting that will set a new business development agenda between us.

We also welcome scoping missions which aim to work out where the best opportunities for collaboration between New Zealand and Egypt are to be found. I’m pleased that the Minister of Administrative Development is planning such a mission and we look forward to seeing this team in Wellington soon.

Some people here may be deterred by perceptions of distance and difficulty of travel. There are now 28 flights a week, a thousand seats a day, into Auckland direct from Dubai with only a technical stop in Australia. And there’s a one stop link heading south from Egypt through Singapore. Travelling between us has never been easier.

Now that we have opened here in Cairo, can I say how warmly I would welcome an Egyptian Embassy back to Wellington.

There is much that should interest Egypt in New Zealand, and a resident embassy is a very good way of tapping it. We have an open, business-friendly market economy with consumer needs and tastes well suited to Egyptian products. But our market is virtually ignored here. Through integration with our neighbour Australia, we are part of a much larger and more powerful market of 24 million consumers and $800 billion in GDP. We are busy building productive trade links with a variety of other partners in our Asia Pacific region, the most dynamic and fastest growing on the planet.

Thank you for the interest you have shown in New Zealand through your attendance here today.


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