Researched and written by Professor Natasha Hamilton-Hart of the Department of Management and International Business, University of Auckland, the report found that investment from Asia accounts for a relatively small share of all foreign investment in New Zealand - less than 10 percent of the total. Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States are the largest sources of foreign investment, representing 58 percent.
We launched the report in Wellington with an engaging panel discussion, which featured the author Professor Hamilton-Hart, economist Shamubeel Eaqub, NZIER deputy chief executive John Ballingall, and business and economic commentator and managing editor of Newsroom Pro Bernard Hickey. The discussion was moderated by Ellen Read, national business editor for Fairfax Media. We are planning a similar launch in Auckland in the next few weeks, partnering with ATEED.
Belt and Road Forum
I have also been travelling the past few weeks. In early May, I attended the Belt and Road Initiative (or BRI) in Beijing. Many viewed this event as the formal unveiling of this key China initiative. It attracted the largest number of foreign dignitaries including 28 heads of state and government to Beijing since the 2008 Olympics.
The Belt and Road Initiative involves China underwriting roughly $150 billion a year of infrastructure investment in 68 countries that have signed up to the scheme. I see it as a lens or organising principle to view various projects through. It was described to me as "China’s moon shot’" Whatever it is, it has the potential to significantly change the geo political landscape of the region.
I followed up my attendance there by participating in a BRI forum run by the Hong Kong Trade Development Council in Auckland later in the month.
Visit with PM to Japan
From Beijing, I joined Prime Minister Bill English in Japan as part of his official delegation. The trip, which was the Prime Minister’s first in Asia, was an opportunity to cement our already close ties with Tokyo and to discuss how our countries can work more closely together, particularly in addressing challenges in the Asia Pacific region.
With the United States’ withdrawal from TPP, Japan and New Zealand are now seen as the (cheer)leaders in preserving TPP alongside other regional partners. This after New Zealand became the second country to ratify TPP after Japan. As countries with similar values and interest, we and the Japanese have much to gain in pushing TPP as a model for deeper integration in the region.
Trade aside, the contact between New Zealand and Japan during the Rugby World Cup, Tokyo Olympics, Para Olympics and Masters Games is going to go increase significantly and the Foundation is thinking hard about where and how the Foundation can add value in this space.
This month I was also a delegate at the Shangri-La Dialogue (SLD). Convened by the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) in conjunction with the Singaporean Ministry of Defence, participants included 22 defence ministers and representatives from 50 countries in the Asia Pacific. I had the opportunity to have a bilateral meeting with Singaporean Defence Minister Dr Ng, who is one of the Foundation’s honorary advisers.
New Zealand was formally represented by Defence Minister Mark Mitchell, Defence Secretary Helene Quilter, and New Zealand Chief of Defence Force Lieutenant General Tim Keating. At the core of the meeting, most delegations where seeking assurance from the US of their continued involvement in the region. Whilst US Defence Minister James Mattis said all the right words (‘rules based order’), my take was his assertions did not match the Twittersphere rhetoric from Washington and left many unconvinced.
Concerns were also expressed over the recent spate of terror attacks in the region, including the suicide bombings in Jakarta and the ongoing ISIS-linked insurgency in Marawi in southern Philippines.
Thai honorary advisers
Finally, after the Shangri-La Dialogue, I stopped by Bangkok to meet our two new Thai honorary advisers Dr Pavida Pananond and Dr Thitinan Pongsudhirak. New Zealand Ambassador to Thailand Ben King hosted a gathering where we formally presented the ministerial appointments to Dr Pananod and Dr Pongsudhirak who are both highly regarded in the country. I look forward to working with them and drawing on their wisdom and expertise especially in our engagement with ASEAN. Dr Pananond and Dr Pongsudhirak were among five new honorary advisers the Foundation welcomed to the team this month.
31 April saw the end of Minister McCully’s tenure as Foreign Minister and thus as Chairman of the honorary advisers and our vote Minister. Minister McCully, like his predecessors, has been a strong supporter of the Foundation’s work, for which we are grateful. We look forward to working with Minister Brownlee in the Foreign Affairs role. We learnt he was married in Northern Malaysia so has some good Asian exposure already.
And lastly, I'd just like to quickly mention the hui staff and Leadership Network members attended at Taheke Marae in Rotorua over the weekend. The hui was to discuss how the Foundation can better engage with Māori so that we can better help all New Zealanders to thrive in Asia, and to look at what this might mean for our kaupapa. This is just a quick thanks to all those who made it possible - I'll discuss the hui at greater length in next month's update.
Hei konā mai,