PANEL DISCUSSIONS: HOSTED BY SUSAN WOOD IN RESPONSE TO ARTHUR LOO INTERVIEW
You were saying, actually, listening to that interview, that it's all about the corporates versus America. Explain what you were talking about.
HELEN KELLY, President, Council of Trade Unions
Well, I think there's two issues there. One is that there is a lack of understanding amongst the New Zealand population of the Chinese culture and China as a country, and I think that is an area that I think we need to invest more and-
SUSAN So that is about face time.
HELEN Yeah, between the people of this country and Chinese people, so that people actually understand each other. We understand Australians, we understand Americans, so there's less concern about that. I think secondly that. I think secondly that China is seen as a single corporate because government is seen as so central to business there, whereas other countries are seen as, you know, a number of corporates. I think we do have to have a discussion about investment generally, rather than trying to isolate China, but I think the reason we see China is a special case is it is seen as a single corporate, the government acting in the interest of-
SUSAN This all-powerful one. Now, you were saying, Michael, that we need a specific Pacific strategy around investment, not just a New Zealand one.
MICHAEL BARNETT, CEO, Auckland Chamber of Commerce
No, I think that Arthur was saying, that if we're going to have a discussion around investment, then let's do that, but don't just do it for China. Do it for everyone. And I agree with that, but I probably take it a step further and say if we're going to have a discussion about land ownership or fishing rights or any of those other investment-type things it should be around the Pacific, so that we can take the whole of the region with us and have the same set of rules for the whole region. And I think some of that has been of concern to people who are uninformed.
SUSAN Well, Raymond, you do hear stories about, you know, Chinese investment in the Pacific, and I think that raises some fears.
RAYMOND Yes, there is concern, particularly given that some of the South Pacific nations are heavily dependent on outside help, and there's a limit to what Australia and New Zealand can do. And China is in a position where it is able to help them quite significantly, and where money comes in, of course, that's buying a certain amount of influence. I think we've come a long way in the last, you know, 15 - 20 years, when Jim Bolger talked about our future identity and economy being heavily dependent on Asia. People were very critical. But when you think now, here we have entry to a market of 1.4 billion people. Many of those people are now developing Western tastes in terms of their diet and so on. Vast opportunities for New Zealand. We haven't gone far enough, I think, in areas where- tourism, for instance, where China is our second most important nation in terms of visitors. You know, we haven't done enough, I think, to make those people welcome and to adjust to their needs. But I think we are making progress. That's good.
MICHAEL If you take some of the things that we're taking into China now, if you go back in time, this face thing, it's not a new thing. We did it with Japan. We went up there. We let them know us. We got to know the Japanese culture. We have exactly the same thing happening now. It's happened in Malaysia and Indonesia and Singapore. What we're doing is we're taking decades of learning, refined and we're taking it into China. So going into China is going to be a time thing. We need, culturally, to be able to understand them. They need, culturally, to be able to understand us.
SUSAN Now, the prime minister is obviously in China at the moment, and there's been some conversation around currency. So let's hear what he had to say.
New Zealand could explore that, I think, over time as a potential option. It saves some costs. But the view of the Treasury is it's sort of a small step forward at the end of the day. It's not like a massive step, because at the moment it's not a reserve currency, it's tightly controlled, and the Chinese are continuing to make sure that their currency is managed in a very specific way. But there would be some advantages, and for a country like New Zealand, why wouldn't we consider it?
SUSAN Why wouldn't we? What he's talking about is that the Australians are talking about cutting out the US dollar's direct currency transfers. Michael?
MICHAEL I think Key is right. He's saying it's another small advantage, and when we take it and add it to the Free Trade Agreement, to me, that's significant. For the Australians, you have to remember they're going to have a Free Trade Agreement. So they're looking at something that's likely to give them an advantage as a step before a Free Trade Agreement. We have it. So for me, I would be saying 'let's explore it, make sure that the Australians don't get a jump on us'. We've had a Free Trade Agreement for five years. We have not taken advantage of it. Still top of our list as dairy, meat, wood and so on.
SUSAN So what should we be doing?
MICHAEL Again, I think that taking our experience- It's time for the small-medium businesses to be able to get into China, to stop looking at the Shanghais, for example, and start looking at some of the smaller cities and the smaller provinces. I think there's things that we can do in some of our industries, and it doesn't matter whether it's film or associated with technology. Technology agreements between us, research agreements between our two countries - there's so much we could do; we just need to do it faster.
SUSAN You need to teach David Shearer to give those specific answers, because you've just given me a very specific answer. Helen, interesting, too, and I brought it up with Arthur Loo - the role of Maori and Chinese. The relationships can be built there too.
HELEN Sure. I mean, I think the issue, really, to enable all of these relationships to be firmed up and for people to feel comfortable with any international trade and relationships is to get the New Zealand rules straight. What do New Zealanders think are the limits around these trade agreements? We want to hold on to our sovereignty to make laws. We want to hold on to - I think- to our land and be very restrictive about who owns land in this country in particular and strategic assets. I think that if we could have that conversation then the relationships will flourish with all sorts of other countries, and Asian countries and European countries - any type of person can engage where they feel safe in the things that they value most. And I think Maori, there's a risk that they're using the Maori card to try and play, you know, this is good for Maori - well, it won't be good for Maori if it means, you know, the loss of land or the loss of sovereignty. So I think that certainly the relationship can be strengthened, but again, I think we need to get the base rules sorted out first.