North Asia Centre of Asia-Pacific Excellence inaugural seminar paints complex picture of China-New Zealand trade

17 November 2017

Rodney Jones

The North Asia Centre of Asia-Pacific Excellence (CAPE) launched its expert speaker series with a thought-provoking seminar on the future of trade between New Zealand and China.

The North Asia CAPE is committed to building sustainable, future-focused economic and cultural relationships with Greater China (including Hong Kong and Taiwan), Japan, and Korea. Led by the University of Auckland, the North Asia CAPE is supported by a consortium of three universities: Otago, Waikato, and Victoria University of Wellington.

Rodney Jones, economist and principal of Asian macro-advisory firm Wigram Capital Advisors Limited, gave a personal, and data-driven, analysis of the nearly 10-year-old New Zealand-China Free Trade Agreement and explained the limitations New Zealand businesses looking to participate in China may face.

Rodney observed that, while New Zealand has enjoyed significant success in China since the period of reform and opening up, it is due to our success in exporting commodities (particularly dairy, meat, and logs) rather than other goods and services. He predicted that New Zealand businesses, in contrast to their access to Japan and South Korea, will continue to face barriers to exporting non-commodity goods and services, particularly given shifts in how China is engaging globally.

"Under the leadership of Xi Jinping, we are seeing the emergence of fortress China. The country is a paradox – the 'talk' is of China opening up, but the 'walk' is of China turning inwards," said Rodney, who has been based in Beijing since 2010. Critically, Rodney explained, China’s trade priority is now about China going out to the world, not the world entering China.

Rodney acknowledged his analysis drew on the broader macroeconomic trends of the economic relationship, rather than specific independent success stories. Indeed, during a lively question and answer session following the presentation, attendees at the capacity event pointed to various examples of NZ businesses innovating and thriving in China.

In thanking Rodney, the University of Auckland's Professor Jenny Dixon, Pro Vice-Chancellor (Strategic Engagement), said she was delighted that such a challenging presentation launched the North Asia CAPE speaker series. "Rodney’s insights are respected internationally, and his ability to blend macroeconomics and anecdotal evidence has provided much food for thought. The North Asia CAPE is committed to ensuring positive outcomes for New Zealanders doing business in North Asia. To do this, we must understand the nuances of China’s complex marketplace."

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