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We share the future, we share the words

I am delighted to be addressing a group of young people who represent the great achievements of today’s China, and who will play an important role in shaping the China of tomorrow.


I want to acknowledge the increasingly important role China is playing on the world stage and I want to point to the role I believe China, and Asia more generally, could contribute to the global economic recovery.


China in particular has undergone an economic and social transformation unparalleled in world history.  The process of economic reform and “opening up”, set in motion by Deng Xiaoping, has delivered benefits to hundreds of millions of people.


With this economic growth has come a huge expansion in China’s trading relationships, your engagement in international forums, and your person-to-person links with other countries.


This is all despite the fact that our two countries are in some ways very different, not least of all in size.  New Zealand is home to only just over four million people.  Our economy is tiny when compared to yours.


But this size disparity has been no barrier to the development of an effective and mutually beneficial relationship. 


New Zealand is proud to have joined China in celebrating ‘four firsts’.


We were the first developed country to agree to China becoming a member of the World Trade Organisation (WTO).


We were the first developed country to recognise that China had established a market economy system.


We were the first developed country to begin a negotiation towards a bilateral Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with you in November 2004.


Our tourism markets are also made for each other.  2009 marks the 10th anniversary of New Zealand being granted “Approved Destination Status” by China — the very first western country to gain this status.


I am delighted with this trend.  As Chinese and Kiwis enjoy more of each other’s hospitality, the friendships between our nations will grow, and our trade, education, and business ties will become stronger.


I am keen to see New Zealand make the most of the opportunities presented by China’s formidable economic growth.


That is why, as a newly-elected Prime Minister, I have chosen to visit China as a matter of priority.


When we signed the FTA last year we opened an important door, and now our task is to boldly walk through it.


Walking through that door could deliver huge rewards.


From New Zealand’s perspective, it’s not really a question of identifying the potential.  The potential is huge.  The question is how we best convert that potential into real economic growth opportunities for New Zealand.


Because, despite the best-efforts of the Government, it is New Zealand businesses, and Chinese businesses, that will pave the way for increased trade between our countries.  We look to them for the new ideas, the fresh approaches and a sense of the possible. 


New Zealand businesses wishing to gain access to markets in China typically have to accustom themselves to a new and different environment.     Not everything in China is the same as it is in New Zealand.  There are language differences, cultural differences, legal and regulatory differences.


So it is of huge benefit to New Zealand that we have extensive and long-standing people-to-people relationships with China.


I think this gives our two countries a huge advantage when it comes to doing business with one another. 


These people-to-people relationships help us to break down our differences, to understand each other a little better, and to make faster progress towards our shared goals.


Looking to the future, I anticipate an increasing role for China in the South Pacific in keeping with its growing economic strengths and interests.


So I have been encouraged by the contribution made by the G20, of which China played a major part, in devising a coherent and substantive response to the economic crisis. 


It’s true that the scope of the current economic recession has been widened because of the inter-connectedness of global markets for goods, services and credit.   But just as this inter-connectedness has had a downside, so does it have a significant upside.  It means that when an economic upswing comes everyone will benefit.


New Zealand and China certainly see eye-to-eye in this regard.


In particular I think that the China-New Zealand FTA is a good model for others in our region as it points the way to openness at a time when protectionist pressures are building. 


In facing these challenges, New Zealand is determined that the gains of the past decades will not be lost.  We wish to see a continuing focus on the prosperity that can be gained from international trade, from the connectedness of international financial systems, and from an increasingly shared global economic outlook.


We accept that improvements must be made, but we think they should be made in a way that while preventing future failures, also maximises the possible gains of our increasingly connected global economy.       


I believe China will have an important role to play in helping shape the response to these challenges over the next few years.  And I am optimistic that our ties and shared interests are such that our two countries will continue to see eye-to-eye on many of the issues that arise.   


In these challenging times, citizens throughout the world have become very aware of the unprecedented levels of interconnectedness in the global economy.  Some see this interconnectedness as a weakness. I do not, and my sense is that China does not either.


Because, as the words of the Maori proverb say:

He aha te mea nui?
He tangata.
He tangata.
He tangata. 


What is the most important thing?
It is people.
it is people.
it is people.