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Belt and Road requires NZ ingenuity: Report

May 1, 2018

China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) will be one of the most important economic opportunities for New Zealand over next decade, but only if we find a uniquely Kiwi way to engage, according to a new report from the New Zealand China Council.

BRI is China’s development strategy to strengthen its connectivity and cooperation with the rest of the world. Almost 70 countries have expressed interest in participating in BRI.

The Council’s report, prepared by PwC, Belt and Road Initiative: A Strategic Pathway seeks to put BRI in context for New Zealand. The report identifies eight specific initiatives under four categories where New Zealand can expand its connectivity with China and other countries involved in BRI. The categories are all in the connectivity space and include trade facilitation, New Zealand as a conduit to Latin America, innovation and the creative sector.

The report was prepared with the generous assistance of ANZ, Asia NZ Foundation, Auckland International Airport Ltd, Fonterra, NZ Maori Tourism and Zespri. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade provided a grant towards the completion of the report but it represents the views of the Council, not the Government.

New Zealand China Council Chairman Sir Don McKinnon says engaging with BRI is critical to maintaining momentum in the New Zealand China relationship.

“China is a huge global player and one of our biggest trading partners. We’ve already signaled our willingness to explore engagement with BRI and now we need to explore more specific ways we can participate with the same purpose that saw us build the relationship on the back of the FTA signed in 2008.

“This report is the first step to developing an action plan for our role in BRI,” Sir Don McKinnon says.

The report evaluates opportunities against criteria such as alignment to New Zealand’s comparative advantage, cost vs benefit, ease of implementation and reputational risk.

“BRI is extraordinarily ambitious in scale, and naturally there are challenges for New Zealand in developing our contribution. We need to engage in a way that delivers tangible benefits and plays to our strengths, while balancing our interests, values and traditional relationships.

“This means building consensus about New Zealand’s unique contribution to BRI, while continuing to build on our existing relationships and agreements such as CPTPP,” Sir Don McKinnon says.

Following the release of the report, the New Zealand China Council will conduct public consultation, and seek feedback from interested parties on potential levels of engagement in BRI.

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