Marlborough Express - - FRONT PAGE -

o carry for­ward the Silk Road spirit of peace and co-op­er­a­tion, openness and in­clu­sive­ness, mu­tual learn­ing and mu­tual ben­e­fit and en­dow it with new im­pe­tus.’’

The open­ing words on New Zealand’s mem­o­ran­dum with China on the Belt and Road Ini­tia­tive seems in stark con­trast to the su­per­power’s his­tory of iso­la­tion­ism.

You can’t ig­nore China, they’re one of our largest trad­ing part­ners, but is New Zealand’s fix­a­tion on the Belt and Road Ini­tia­tive a case of FOMO, fear of miss­ing out?

A re­cent sem­i­nar run by the New Zealand China Coun­cil in Marl­bor­ough was held to con­vince busi­ness and lo­cal gov­ern­ment of the ben­e­fits of re­viv­ing the an­cient silk road trade routes for New Zealand.

Ben­e­fits that def­i­nitely ex­ist, just don’t ask for an ex­am­ple.

A woman at the event asked if China’s aim was global dom­i­na­tion, a sen­ti­ment echoed around the world.

The ini­tia­tive, typ­i­fied by seem­ingly phi­lan­thropic in­fras­truc­ture in­vest­ments in de­vel­op­ing coun­tries, had elicited a healthy cau­tion from Western pow­ers and had been la­belled by some as a ‘‘debt trap’’.

Chi­nese in­fras­truc­ture in­vest­ment doesn’t ap­pear to be on the table for New Zealand, ac­cord­ing to the New Zealand China Coun­cil, the op­por­tu­ni­ties iden­ti­fied fo­cused more on cul­tural and trade as­pects of the Belt and Road Ini­tia­tive.

Those op­por­tu­ni­ties, trade fa­cil­i­ta­tion and sup­ply chain con­nec­tiv­ity, in­no­va­tion, the (metaphor­i­cal) bridge over the Pa­cific link­ing China and South Amer­ica, and the cre­ative sec­tor are good ideas. Ideas that, for the most part, could stand alone.

For ex­am­ple, New Zealand as a con­duit to South Amer­ica, or the broad term, in­no­va­tion. Every­one loves in­no­va­tion.

New Zealand’s en­tire cre­ative sec­tor is a Belt and Road op­por­tu­nity. Who’d have thought?

The New Zealand China Coun­cil re­port de­tailed the ben­e­fits of ‘‘hub­bing’’ in the con­text of trade fa­cil­i­ta­tion.

‘‘Ex­plore op­por­tu­ni­ties for hub lo­ca­tions in the con­text of fu­ture changes in trade flows aris­ing from BRI projects,’’ the coun­cil re­port said.

It’s an idea that could ‘‘po­ten­tially’’ gain trac­tion with China un­der the Belt and Road Ini­tia­tive, but send­ing New Zealand prod­ucts to a hub in China seems like some­thing that should be al­ready hap­pen­ing un­der the Belt and Road ban­ner.

Why aren’t we al­ready hub­bing? We’ve had a free-trade agree­ment with China for close to a decade.

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