BRI is an extraordinarily ambitious undertaking and one which continues to evolve. In commissioning this report, the Council wished to achieve a number of objectives.
First and foremost, we wanted to consider BRI from a New Zealand perspective and to inform stakeholders of opportunities and any potential risks.
Second, we wanted to contribute in a practical way to the development of ideas and projects which could be advanced under the Memorandum of Arrangement (MoA), which the two governments concluded during the visit of Chinese Premier Li Keqiang in March 2016: the MoA is an aspirational, non-binding undertaking, which nevertheless signals New Zealand and China’s willingness to explore options for closer collaboration under a BRI framework. And, lastly, we wanted to provide some further analytical underpinning for the work that needs to continue to be done to grow New Zealand’s relationship with China at a time when many others are competing for the attention of an emerging super-power.
The report tries to take a fresh, innovative and practical approach to the prospects for co-operation under BRI. We asked PwC to focus in particular on opportunities to create greater connectivity between New Zealand, China and the 68 other BRI participants.
While BRI is perhaps best known for the large-scale infrastructure projects being undertaken in developing
countries along the Belt and Road, we believe New Zealand’s approach needs to reflect our comparative advantage, especially given the limited size of New Zealand’s domestic infrastructure programme from a global perspective. This is not to say that there are no opportunities in infrastructure – including potentially in supplying New Zealand services solutions in infrastructure projects in third countries – but the focus of this report is firmly on connectivity.
The Council is very grateful to the sponsors of this project, whose logos appear on the cover. They have engaged in this project because they see the analysis and, even more so, the discussions that will follow to be important for New Zealand.
Representatives of these organisations participated actively with PwC in a “diverge-converge” process, described in the report, which evaluated a large number of possible activities against a set of criteria which highlighted above all relevance to both countries, ease of implementation as well as reputational and other risks.
The outcome was the eight activities grouped under four categories in the areas of Trade Facilitation, New Zealand as a Conduit to South America, the Creative sector and Innovation. These areas for future co-operation are not intended to be exhaustive, but illustrative of what could be developed.
We fully expect other potential areas to be uncovered as part of ongoing discussion that we hope will be generated around this report.
The Council is also grateful to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) which provided both a significant grant towards the completion of the report and useful background material and insights. The final report is issued on the authority of the Council alone and should not be taken to represent the policy of the New Zealand Government.
As we continue to develop engagement with BRI it is important that we do so aware of potential risks and challenges, which have been highlighted in a number of quarters and which are considered in the report, and in the light of New Zealand’s key interests and deeply-held values.
The next steps for this report envisage the presentation of further relevant materials on the Council’s website as well as a programme of outreach and consultation around New Zealand. We welcome feedback on the report and encourage its wide dissemination and use as a starting point for further reflection and discussion.
We thank the report’s authors at PwC for their work and look forward to the continuing journey along the Belt and Road.
Sir Don McKinnon
Auckland, 1 March 2018