19 April 2023
Southeast Asia Centre of Asia-Pacific Excellence began the first Asia Forum of the year last week featuring New Zealand’s chief trade negotiator Vangelis Vitalis with the topic “International Trade in a Turbulent world: New Zealand’s Trade Position and Trajectory”.
Vangelis is the Deputy Secretary, Trade and Economic at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, and has been leading trade negotiations for New Zealand, such as the New Zealand European Union Free Trade Agreement (NZEUFTA), the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTTP), the ASEAN-Australia-New Zealand Free Trade Agreement (AANZFTA) and the Malaysia-New Zealand Free Trade Agreement (MNZFTA).
As the global economy seeks to recover from the pandemic, uncertainty looms large in 2023 with the global trade scene being marked by rising protectionism, geopolitical tensions, war in Ukraine and natural disasters. New Zealand is not shielded from these challenges despite being geographically distant from the rest of the world.
Vangelis spoke about the various multilateral free trade agreements New Zealand has, the values of testing grounds such as Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) and Indo-Pacific Economic Framework for Prosperity (IPEF), and the challenges of geopolitical tensions on trade such as protectionism and non-tariff barriers.
He concluded by delving into the implications for New Zealand, such as the infrastructure needed back in New Zealand for sustainable trade, the increase of trade in the Māori economy, the enhanced use of current multilateral agreements and New Zealand’s participation in these, as well as the skillsets required to boost overall New Zealand trade.
SEA CAPE Director, Professor Siah Hwee Ang, who moderated the session, summed up the evening’s talk: “There was a lot of content to absorb. The next step is to keep these conversations alive and spread the conversations wider and go deeper into actions.”
Almost 90 people hailing from the government, business, tertiary and diplomatic circles attended the hybrid talk, organised in collaboration with Asia Forum, at Victoria University of Wellington’s Pipitea campus on 13 April.