Announcement of Finalists1998 New Zealand Export Awards

  • Lockwood Smith
International Trade

Royal Port Nicholson Yacht Club

Gavin Cormack, Fran Wilde, Garth Galloway, Ladies and Gentlemen.

You may have heard about something called the Asian Economic Crisis. It's something the Government has taken seriously from day one. And it's certainly caused us big problems in some key markets. According to provisional figures released yesterday by Statistics New Zealand, our merchandise exports to Japan were down 5.1% when comparing the year to 31 July 1998 with the previous twelve months. We were down 13.1% to Malaysia, 15.3% to Thailand, and a massive 23.7% to South Korea. We've been hit so badly in Indonesia that it's fallen off the top twenty list.

You'd think an Asia-Pacific economy like New Zealand would be on our knees as a result. And, in fact, our growth will be down to a miserable 0.1% in 1998/99, according to the Reserve Bank. But the Reserve Bank also says growth will bounce back strongly to 4% in 1999/2000. Our exporters will be the ones who can take the most credit for that.

Because, despite those poor trade figures for some Asian economies, Statistics New Zealand's provisional figures suggest that our exports were actually up by 4.2% during the year to 31 July. We increased our exports to the United States by 26.8%, to Mexico by 31.1%, to Germany by 17.1%, to Belgium by a massive 48.9% and to destinations unknown through the EU by 18.6%. Even within Asia, we sold 8.9% more to the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, 5.2% more to China and a huge 34.6% more to Singapore. Clearly, our exporters have responded magnificently in the most difficult of circumstances. You've been innovative enough and flexible enough to successfully shift product into new markets.

I really want to stress the Government's congratulations and appreciation. The Government sets the business environment. But we don't export one dollar of merchandise or services, and we don't employ anyone in an export industry. It is the export sector and your employees who have driven our economic growth through most of this decade, and will drive it into the future.

One of the reasons for your ability to do that, of course, is that in free market New Zealand today, our dollar has automatically adjusted to take account of our balance of payments deficit - falling around 30% against the US in the last 12 months.

The Shipley-led Government is determined to maintain a business environment which makes that kind of flexibility possible: price stability, sensible spending policies, an innovative labour market, a low-rate, broad-base tax system and continual improvements to our international competitiveness. Electricity and roading reform, new rules for importing, compliance cost reform, ACC changes and the review of the implementation of the Resource Management Act are all designed to make our export sector ever more competitive.

Our macroeconomic framework and continual microeconomic improvements mean we are benefiting from the lower dollar without the corrosive inflationary pressures building quickly as in yesteryear. The structure of our labour market means you can be willing to take the risk of employing extra people to take advantage of new opportunities. Tax cuts, compliance cost improvements and those microeconomic reforms ensure that New Zealand is a good place in which to invest.

New Zealand's future is positive. Our most natural market of Asia will eventually recover, and it is important that exporters remain engaged in what are still valuable markets. The APEC meetings, the APEC Business Symposium and the America's Cup will provide a unique opportunity for New Zealand to grab the world's attention. The Sydney Olympics will also help focus attention on this part of the world. And I have dedicated my life to working as Trade Minister next year and beyond to get you much, much better market access through APEC and the World Trade Organisation. In that way, I'm going to do my bit to help achieve the export growth our export industries have shown they are capable of.

I applaud Gavin, Fran and the team at Trade NZ for your administration of these export awards. The profit motive, and the personal desire to be creative and innovative are enough to motivate our exporters. But these awards provide an opportunity for the Government and all New Zealanders to say thank you. Thank you for the way in which you have responded to maintain and improve our export receipts despite the Asian Economic Crisis. Thank you for the economic growth that you generate, particularly our innovative and dynamic small and medium sized business which are able to grow at such impressive rates. And, most importantly, thank you for the jobs you create for New Zealanders.

The Shipley-led Government, and I as Trade Minister, look forward to working with our export sector up until the next election and well beyond. Fran, we are all looking forward to hearing the names of this year's finalists, and offering our warmest congratulations to all our exporters for their achievements over the last twelve months.