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Talking Chinese Investment in the Capital

October 2, 2019

Around 30 Wellingtonians gathered for the local launch of the Council’s new report on Chinese investment in New Zealand, organised by the NZ China Trade Association (NZCTA).  Martin Thomson, NZCTA Chair and Council board member welcomed guests to the event on behalf of hosts DLA Piper.  

Former Council Executive Director and report co-author Pat English opened the event, making the point that investment linkages are fundamentally linkages between people.  He noted a number of case studies in the report which show Chinese investors are careful to respect local context and whakapapa.  

Following a presentation of the report’s findings, a panel discussion was held with Catherine Beard from Export NZ, Peter Lai from Victoria Link and Martin Thomson from DLA Piper, which hosted the event.  The theme of the discussion was about how New Zealand can communicate better to attract quality FDI into the country.  

Peter Lai pointed to the need to tell success stories more effectively.  He pointed to the breakthrough cancer research being carried out by the Malaghan Institute with funding from China.  He noted the multiplier effects of this Chinese investment will bring huge benefits to New Zealand in terms of exportable IP and innovation.  

Catherine Beard stressed the highly mobile nature of global capital and the need for New Zealand not just to make it easier to do businesses here, but also to address issues such as housing which affect public perceptions around FDI. 

Martin Thomson addressed reform of the overseas investment regime, noting a recent paper from Treasury that compared New Zealand to other comparable small nations and concluded that we are more restrictive in our regulations.  

An interesting idea picked up by the panel was the potential for the Overseas Investment Office to play a role in telling success stories, such as publicising and reporting on the benefits of successful investments in terms of jobs created and other factors.  Panel members agreed that this would demonstrate an ‘NZ Inc’ approach and lift global awareness of New Zealand as an attractive investment destination. 

Questions from the audience focussed on Australia’s relative success in attracting FDI from China, and the potential impacts of the US-China trade war on levels of inward investment.  The Panel agreed that Australia put considerable people power and resources into getting closer to China on investment, a model that New Zealand can learn from. While trade war impacts are difficult to gauge, the panel noted that New Zealand could now be seen as a less risky destination for capital compared to the United States. 

Read our full report here. 

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