June 22, 2008

Europe Day

Last Friday I was invited to the Europe Day lunch organised by the New Zealand Europe Business Council at the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron. The Council promotes closer economic co-operation between New Zealand and Europe, and provides a forum for the coordination of activities of various business councils/associations, trade organisations, diplomatic missions and consular representatives from European countries.
So that was right up my alley, what with me being European and actively pursuing New Zealand's eventual membership of the European Union. I was surprised to hear a New Zealand trade person actually agreeing to that and even suggesting the Opposition spokesperson on Trade, Tim Groser, wasn't averse to the idea either. Ah well, something to look forward to lobbying on if there is to be a new Government this year.
Not that the current Government is against Europe, far from it. Guest speaker was Trade Minister Phil Goff, who was positively gushing about Europe, mentioning how well New Zealand fits in as a "Scandinavian"-like country, booing the ungrateful Irish for voting down the EU Lisbon Treaty and consoling the Portuguese for their loss to Germany in the Euro 2008.
Here are some extracts from his speech notes:
Collectively, the EU is New Zealand’s second largest trading partner. European countries make up 14 of our 50 top trading partners, with a combined total of around 16% of our merchandise trade.
The 27 members of the EU account for 31% of the world’s economic output and purchasing power. When you add in other European countries, and Russia, you are looking at over a third of the global economy.
Our traditional trade with Europe continues to be strong. Last year we exported to it over $1.5bn worth of lamb, $500m in dairy products, and $250m worth of wine.
As well as being an affluent market for New Zealand exporters, Europe is an important source of innovation. It is an ideal market for value-added technologies, services and well-designed, branded consumer products.
Europe is home to people with the highest amount of purchasing power and a significant proportion of consumers who look for brands, design, quality, functionality and safety.
The wine on the table came from Portugal. Not as good as Waiheke wine, of course, but that would have been rude to point out.

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