Presentation of the Trade New Zealand Export Awards FinalistsInternational Trade
Hon Fran Wilde, Members of the Trade New Zealand Board, representatives of this evening's major sponsor DHL Worldwide Express and associate sponsor Bank of New Zealand, Export Awards applicants, members of the Top Exporters Club, ladies and gentlemen.
It gives me great pleasure to be involved in tonight's ceremony to recognise the finalists for the 1999 New Zealand Export Awards.
It is very appropriate that in 1999, the key themes for the awards are "inspiration, determination, competition and success".
These themes embody the core attributes demonstrated by New Zealand's export sector over the past year - one of the most difficult experienced by the export sector since 1991, or even earlier.
In parts of New Zealand, our primary production sector suffered from the worst drought in living memory.
And the whole export sector has been faced with the challenge presented from the Asian Economic and Financial Crisis.
The crisis reduced, and in some cases wiped out demand for New Zealand goods in some of our key markets.
For example, our exports to Asia slumped by $662 million in 1998.
Fifteen years ago this scenario would have seriously reduced New Zealand's total merchandise exports.
But what we've seen instead is New Zealand continuing to succeed in export markets.
The slump in demand from Asia was more than compensated by an increase in the value of our exports to the United States alone, which increased by $694 million, or 31.3 percent.
Other significant increases included Belgium, up 59.5 percent to $558 million and Mexico, which increased by 30.6%.
And make no mistake. This success has followed from the inspiration, determination and competitiveness of our exporters.
I'm here tonight as Trade Minister to recognise this success because it's crucial to our country's economic success.
Exporting is not an end in itself. Exporting means trade, and trade means jobs. It raises the standard of living for all New Zealand families
In an election year, we're inevitably seeing challenges to New Zealand's approach to trade policy.
The questions are entirely valid, but we do have the answers. In fact, the evidence is overwhelming.
Removing tariffs at home and abroad delivers huge benefits to consumers, exporters and national economies.
Just last week I chaired the Meeting of APEC Ministers Responsible for Trade in Auckland.
14 of APEC's 21 member economies announced tariff cuts which accelerate progress toward free and open trade and investment in our region, and effectively reduce the tax on New Zealand exporters in 14 key markets.
APEC's work is also removing red tape and incoherent regulations, reducing bureaucracy for New Zealand exporters in our offshore markets.
The fact that some trading partners are not moving as quickly as New Zealand does not mean that we should reintroduce a fortress economy at home, or engage in a bizarre tariff 'strip-tease' with our trading partners.
Exporters are consumers too, and the removal of tariffs in New Zealand has significantly reduced the cost of inputs for exporters.
All of you will know that company vehicles are significantly cheaper with a zero tariff, as are your computers and many other inputs that you purchase regularly in the course of doing business.
This Government recognises that exporters have the most to lose through the reintroduction of tariffs, and we're committed to policies that will continue to reduce the cost of inputs at our own border.
In conclusion, I'd like to congratulate all companies that have been nominated as finalists for the New Zealand Export Awards.
The Awards are valuable because they recognise your individual success. But more importantly, they recognise your contribution to providing jobs and increasing living standards for New Zealand families.
I'd now like to ask Fran to join me in announcing the finalists in each category of the 1999 New Zealand Export Awards.