• Jim Bolger
Foreign Affairs and Trade


Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen.

Some of you probably know that earlier this week I attended the meeting of Leaders of the APEC economies in Vancouver.

New Zealand and China can rightly be pleased at the extent to which we are living up to the APEC goals of liberalised trade and investment.

Our bilateral trade is blossoming.

Our two way trade last year reached $1.3 billion, making China New Zealand's fifth largest trading partner.

China's exports to New Zealand are also growing strongly.

But an economic relationship based only on trade is likely to be a shallow, temporary thing.

To acquire the permanency and stability necessary to create long-term growth, trade must be underpinned by investment.

Foreign investment is a foundation of the New Zealand economy.

It is responsible for the jobs of one in three of our workforce and continues to drive much of our ongoing development and growth.

China is a major source of investment for New Zealand.

In fact I understand that according to official Chinese statistics, New Zealand is currently the single largest overseas destination for investment from this country.

Chinese interests hold for example a substantial stake in the New Zealand timber industry as the result of the activities of CITIC and Sintrans.

I hope, once New Zealand becomes an approved destination for Chinese holiday makers, that investors from this country will help us create the tourist facilities necessary for meeting the needs of those visitors.

Of course we recognise that overseas investment in New Zealand needs to be matched by flows in the opposite direction.

In this respect New Zealand investment in China is growing rapidly.

I understand to date there have been more than 300 investments made by New Zealand interests in China.

And I am particularly pleased some of New Zealand's largest corporates have taken the strategic decision to seek a long-term presence in this country.

Lion Nathan recently opened a very large new "green fields" brewery at Suzhou.

The New Zealand Dairy Board is in the process of building a major plant near Guangzhou to process cheese and pack milk powder.

And Fletcher Steel, together with a joint venture partner, operates a major and successful iron and steel works at Datong in Shanxi Province.

Which brings me to the reason we are here today.

I would be hard-put to find a better example of successful China/New Zealand business collaboration than the Beijing Gongti Richina Underwater World joint venture, which has created this magnificent aquarium - the "Blue Zoo Beijing".

The Richina Group itself, though Beijing based, does of course have strong New Zealand connections.

Richina Chairman and CEO Richard Yan completed his high school and early university education in Auckland.

The Richina Group which he founded has developed a significant role in promoting trade and investment across the Pacific basin.

Of particular relevance to the China/New Zealand economic connection is the Richina purchase of one of New Zealand's largest construction and property development companies - Mainzeal, and with it one of our oldest and largest tanning companies, Mair Astley.

To create the Blue Zoo Beijing, Richard Yan and his colleagues have drawn together the financial and management expertise of the Richina Group with those of their joint venture partner, the Beijing Sports Service Centre for Workers led by Mr Tan Yishu.

They have coupled those resources with the special underwater world technology of another New Zealand company, Marinescape, which has been involved in creating 11 similar aquariums around the world.

I have every confidence that the result - the Blue Zoo Beijing aquarium - will quickly become one of the premier tourist attractions of Beijing.

And I extend my congratulations to Mr Tan Yishu, Mr Richard Yan, Mr Tony Boyle and all the other talented people from China and around the Pacific Rim who have contributed in turning this idea into a reality.

Thank you for the invitation to join you in celebrating this occasion today.

Your project is a mark of the health and vitality of the overall relationship between New Zealand and China.

I have much pleasure in extending to you the best wishes of the New Zealand Government for the success of this venture.