Wanganui Chronicle

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

NEW Zealand is fundamentally a trading nation. Our broad international trade ties are part of the reason we are doing so well today.

Our economy is growing more strongly than most other developed countries, with the average wage up 26 per cent since National took office and more than 370,000 new jobs were created since the height of the global financial crisis.

However, it's really important we don't take our trading nation status for granted. We need to continue to forge new and improved ties with the rest of the world to ensure we sustain that success.

And we must try to earn more for our products by adding value, whether that value comes from the further processing or crafting of raw materials, or from selling our image and reputation as a country, along with our products.

The opportunities presented to us through trading with the world are immense. We know we won't get rich by selling things to ourselves. But we might by selling them to the world.

Successive New Zealand governments have finalised trade agreements with a number of countries including Australia, Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia, Korea and China and they're all working well for our exporters.

The volume of goods we export to mainland China is now four times what it was before the NZ-China Free Trade Agreement was signed in 2008; and our wine exports to South Korea have increased by 30 per cent following the signing of an agreement between our two countries, which came into effect in December 2015.

Currently exports are worth $70 billion to the New Zealand economy, but there are many parts of the world where it's still a struggle to do business. Prime Minister Bill English set out the National-led Government's commitment to forging new and improved trade ties when he recently launched our trade strategy - called Trade Agenda 2030.

Under Trade Agenda 2030 we've set the ambitious goal of having 90 per cent of goods exported from New Zealand covered by a formal trade agreement by 2030. This is up from just 53 per cent today. And we're putting our money where our mouth is by committing $91.3 million over four years to help achieve this goal. This funding will go towards forging new trade agreements, maximising the benefits of existing ones, establishing new diplomatic posts in Dublin and Sri Lanka and supporting Kiwi exporters to enter new markets.

Of course, agriculture will play a significant role, and so will rural and provincial New Zealand. Agriculture remains the backbone of the New Zealand economy. We currently export 92 per cent of our sheep meat and 80 per cent of our beef; while Fonterra sends about 95 per cent of its New Zealand production overseas.

It's difficult to overstate just how important trade is to New Zealand.