The New Zealand Herald

Others eyeing Belt and Road, report warns

Pursuing host of new initiative­s advisable to bolster strong NZ-China ties, says PWC

- Liam Dann

New Zealand’s preferenti­al position in the Chinese market is at risk unless we actively pursue our place in its epic Belt and Road Initiative, says a report by PWC.

Commission­ed by the New Zealand China Council, Belt and Road Initiative is pitched as a first step toward a strategic plan to maximise the benefits of Beijing’s massive global infrastruc­ture push.

The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) was announced in 2013 by President Xi Jinping, who described it as the project of the century.

It seeks to enhance economic growth across the traditiona­l Chinese trade routes — over land to Europe and by sea down through the Pacific.

It is estimated that China will invest as much as US$2.5 trillion ($3.5t) in infrastruc­ture across the region during the next decade.

“The relationsh­ip we have with China has grown incredibly rapidly under the impetus of the Free Trade agreement,” said New Zealand China Council chief executive Stephen Jacobi. “But some new momentum is needed.”

The reason for that was other nations were staking their positions with trade deals and positionin­g themselves in the framework of the BRI.

Planned projects like a fast rail link from Beijing to Europe had the potential to shift the balance in trade with China, Jacobi said.

“It requires us to take another strategic look at what we can do with China, particular­ly as Belt and Road becomes the prism through which China looks at the rest of the world.”

The massive investment in infrastruc­ture through the region was likely to be focused on developing nations rather than countries like New Zealand, Jacobi said.

So the report focused more on New Zealand’s connectivi­ty with China and the 69 BRI countries.

The report identifies eight specific initiative­s under four categories where New Zealand can expand its connection­s.

These include trade facilitati­on in areas like biosecurit­y, customs clearance and supply chain hubs as well as a focus on innovation and the creative sector.

The report recommends quite specific steps such as creating interactiv­e video games to promote New Zealand’s place within the BRI.

New Zealand should also use its geographic position to act as a conduit and natural connection between China and South America.

“From a trade perspectiv­e, the NZChina pathway is already well defined with a Mutual Recognitio­n Agreement and Joint Electronic Verificati­ons in place,” the report said. “Similar processes should be extended into South America.”

As well as boosting trade the developmen­t of a connecting hub between China and South America would have a secondary effect of encouragin­g more tourists from both places.

Jacobi acknowledg­ed there were diplomatic issues which required New Zealand to tread carefully as it developed the BRI relationsh­ip.

The US and Australia have concerns about the BRI being used to grow Chinese political influence in the region.

Jacobi said he hoped the report would be useful to the Government which was currently working on an official Memorandum of Arrangemen­t with China.

This was a process — begun in March 2017 — of upgrading the FTA, expanding trade and investment and developing a plan for New Zealand’s inclusion in the BRI.

 ?? Picture / Mark Mitchell ?? Facilitati­ng trade with China is one of several areas the report cites as ripe for expanding ties.
Picture / Mark Mitchell Facilitati­ng trade with China is one of several areas the report cites as ripe for expanding ties.

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