RT HON SIR DON MCKINNON: REMARKS TO THE BUILDING THE SOUTHERN LINK CONFERENCE
Ambassador, Consul-General, distinguished guests from overseas and closer to home
Kia ora koutou katoa and a warm welcome to you all to the Southern Link conference.
This is an occasion when I can wear two of my favourite hats – as Chairman of the NZ China Council and Patron of the Latin America New Zealand Business Council.
I’m delighted that these two organisations have got together and have engaged with partners in China, Chile and Argentina to bring us this event.
We very much thank our friends at Fudan University, the Chilean Pacific Foundation and the Argentine Council for International Relations for making the journey across opposite ends of the Pacific.
Welcome to New Zealand – to the central point of the Southern Link !
We are glad to see you here but in the spirit of today’s event would be equally glad if after a few hours or a few days here it was a seamless experience to continue your journey.
This in essence is what the Southern Link is all about – linking both sides of the Pacific, building trade, travel and tourism in both directions.
It’s not a new idea but takes on greater currency in the light of China’s Belt and Road Initiative and the willingness of both New Zealand and our friends in partners in South America, especially Chile and Argentina, to be part of this bold new vision for connectivity.
Visions are great, but turning them into reality requires hard work: we know that to achieve the Southern Link a number of changes will need to be made to both commercial strategy and public policy including transit visas, air service agreements and trade facilitation mechanisms.
This is the subject matter of today’s conference and I hope the big picture discussion this morning and the more technical break-out sessions this afternoon will help define a forward-looking agenda for what needs to be done.
Conferences are important for developing momentum and casting vision, but it is important that this work does not end today.
I’d like to thank the small group of industry representatives led by the Council who have worked hard to lay the groundwork for today’s events.
I’d like to thank our sponsors who have made these arrangements possible.
We are at the beginning of a journey.
Today marks the starting point for a big, bold and beautiful idea: in an age where too many are turning inwards we are looking outwards, to both east and west, and a new way of linking economies and people through trade, travel and tourism across the Southern Link.
I wish you all a most productive and enjoyable day ahead.