Speech to APEC business event
E ngā tumu herenga waka, ākina ā ngaru, ākina ā tai
ka whakatere ngā waka ki te whakapapa pounamu, otirā, ki Tamaki o ngā waka
Tena koutou katoa…
To the great leaders assembled, who guided your waka through turbulent times, challenging waters and you continue to navigate your respective waka to reach the still waters of prosperity. We all gather together here in “the gathering place of the waka (Auckland). I greet you….
Thank you Mark for the welcome, to PwC for your hospitality, and to all those who’ve been involved in the organisation of this event.
There is probably no easy year to host APEC, but 2021 must surely qualify as one of the more challenging.
The event comes as the world faces its greatest public health emergency in a century, together with the largest economic downturn since the Great Depression.
Despite progress in the global health response, the virus continues to rage around the world.
Even places which had managed to control the virus are struggling to maintain that initial success.
This all adds up to a slow and uncertain return to business as usual.
Faced with this, New Zealand’s response to the COVID-19 health and economic crisis requires both strong domestic action and strong international engagement.
So tonight I want to talk about how New Zealand will use our chairing of APEC to help combat the challenges we face at home and abroad in responding to COVID-19.
Last year we took the difficult decision to host APEC 2021 virtually due to the uncertainties associated with COVID-19, particularly around travel.
That has proven to be the right call.
While it is not what we had originally planned, hosting APEC virtually provides us with the opportunity to innovate, and to consider how APEC members can engage most effectively during this crisis.
As we saw last week when we chaired a successful meeting of APEC trade ministers, virtual engagements can generate high participation and meaningful outcomes.
This serves our overriding aspiration as APEC chair - to drive results that benefit New Zealand and the region.
For example, all of APEC faces the challenge of achieving widespread COVID vaccination as soon as possible.
Here we are using APEC to deliver practical help.
Last week APEC trade ministers committed to strengthen international supply chains for vaccines.
This will help ensure vaccines can move quickly across borders and get to those who need them faster, for the benefit of the whole APEC region.
We also led APEC in pushing back against the idea of vaccine nationalism.
That notion is not just morally wrong, it’s self-defeating for our health response. Because we will not be safe until we are all safe.
Another challenge we face, which is strongly linked to vaccine uptake, is accelerating our economic recovery.
Our success in fighting the virus means we’re better positioned for recovery than many other countries.
But securing that recovery depends on getting the fundamentals right.
It means sound infrastructure, a thriving small business ecosystem, and growing a workforce with the right skills.
Here in New Zealand, Budget 2021 continued our strong focus on all three.
But as you know, our economic recovery will not take place in isolation.
New Zealand has always been an outward looking, globally connected nation.
In keeping with that tradition, the Government’s strategy is to support a trade-led recovery.
That’s why we are taking further steps to lift export growth, for example by ensuring New Zealand Trade and Enterprise can better support our exporters, and help shift exports from volume to value.
As a connected nation, New Zealand’s prospects are better when the region in which we sit is thriving.
Here, APEC has a role to play.
APEC represents around half of all global trade.
For decades the forum has supported our region to become the most dynamic in the world, lifting around a billion people out of poverty.
New Zealand has benefited hugely from this. Today around three-quarters of our exports go to APEC economies.
APEC has achieved this by working together to build a vibrant and open regional economy.
In the face of concerning global trends – isolationism, protectionism, international tensions – this spirit of collaboration is needed now more than ever.
So we are looking to use APEC to support the region’s recovery through open markets, resisting protectionism, and generating sustainable growth.
APEC members have had great success in sharing recipes for economic growth, and making it easier for our companies to do business across the region.
Building on that, next week Minister David Clark will convene a group of APEC Ministers to discuss how we can continue to create a regulatory environment in which innovation and business can thrive, while delivering a green recovery.
And next month, Finance Minister Grant Robertson will chair a meeting where business leaders will talk directly to APEC Finance Ministers about what they believe would accelerate recovery from COVID-19.
Given these Finance Ministers are responsible for managing a period of significant fiscal stimulus, it is a vital time for them to hear from business.
Through conversations like these, we aim for our hosting of APEC to drive outcomes that directly support New Zealand’s – and the region’s – economic recovery.
Hosting APEC is also a unique opportunity to showcase New Zealand on the global stage as a safe place to trade with, invest in, and eventually, to visit again.
I’ll come back to this idea shortly, including how business can be involved.
The final challenge I want to touch on is laying the foundations for a better future.
We will recover from the pandemic. But we are not aiming to simply return to the way things were pre-COVID.
As we shift from recovery to rebuilding, we will be seeking a more productive, inclusive and sustainable economy.
And we will be taking these aspirations to APEC.
Take climate change for instance.
Many APEC members have committed to becoming carbon neutral, yet we need more than just ambitious goals – we need a plan to achieve them.
We will therefore be asking APEC to develop trade and economic policy tools to help de-carbonise our economies.
For example, last week APEC trade ministers agreed to look at further ways to make it easier to trade in goods and services which support our transition to a low-emissions future.
We should also tackle fossil fuel subsidies which undermine climate goals.
APEC has long said that we should be phasing out these subsidies. .
This year we want APEC to make progress to deliver on that.
So we were pleased to see APEC trade ministers agree on some next steps, including the possibility of committing to not introduce any new subsidies on fossil fuels that encourage wasteful consumption.
Progress in these areas builds on the world-leading work that New Zealand is already doing on using trade rules to tackle climate change, for example through our negotiations on the Agreement on Climate Change, Trade and Sustainability.
This initiative is a demonstration of how trade rules can be part of the solution, by removing trade barriers for green products and services and stopping pollution being subsidised.
Here at home we are determined to do our part on climate change.
We’ve committed to net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, and established an independent Climate Change Commission to guide our path to get there.
Just yesterday the Commission released its recommendations, which we are carefully considering, and from which we’ll prepare a comprehensive Emissions Reduction Plan.
A sustainable economy will be better placed to deal with future shocks.
Equally, an inclusive recovery will produce a more resilient economy.
While COVID-19 has impacted us all, it has not done so evenly. Our recovery must not leave behind small businesses, women, rural populations, or Māori.
We simply can’t afford to leave the economic potential of these groups untapped.
So in APEC we are pioneering new work on inclusive growth, for example on valuing and strengthening indigenous economies.
As host, we have a unique opportunity to ensure that the region’s trade and economic settings are informed by indigenous knowledge, perspectives, and experiences.
This serves not only short term recovery efforts, but also our long term vision of inclusive prosperity.
Digital inclusion is another important area of focus.
Digital technologies can be a powerful force for inclusive economic growth, but we need to ensure that the benefits they bring are spread widely.
So we are also using APEC to generate ideas for building a productive economy where all our people and businesses have not only the digital tools they need, but the skills to make use of them.
In closing, one of APEC’s unique strengths is that it includes a seat at the table for business.
And I mean that literally - the APEC Business Advisory Council, chaired this year by our very own Rachel Taulelei - is able to meet and speak directly with APEC Leaders when we meet.
It is a powerful opportunity for the voice of business to be heard by world leaders.
The APEC CEO Summit this November is also an exciting chance for business executives and thought leaders to engage with each other and with APEC Leaders on the most pressing issues of the day.
The CEO Summit is the most influential meeting of business and government in the Asia-Pacific.
It will also allow us to showcase New Zealand as a safe, inclusive, digitally creative and easy place to do business.
I encourage you all to get involved.
I am delighted to now ask Barbara Chapman, Chair of the APEC CEO Summit 2021, to share more details about this year’s Summit, and to introduce the corporate partners we are working with to deliver a world class event.