Sport key to New Zealand-Japan economic relationship boost - Steven Joyce
Sport is a key component as the New Zealand government looks to reinvigorate its business relationship with Japan, Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce says.
Joyce spoke at a friendship dinner attended by many Japanese and New Zealand business people in Queenstown on Friday as part of the New Zealand Golf Open. Reinforcing the commitment of the government to the Asian business ties, Prime Minister John Key attended an exclusive breakfast with many of the same business representatives on Sunday.
Speaking outside the dinner, Joyce said there had been a strong relationship on many levels between New Zealand and Japan but the opportunities of the free trade agreement with China in 2008 had seen the focus shift in recent years.
Now, the enormous economic growth of the ASEAN countries and the free trade agreement with Korea were seeing that focus move again.
The Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement would open more opportunities with Japan, he said.
"It's not a case of playing down the Japanese relationship but actually you get an opportunity with some of these things to lift up other relationships and that's one of the reasons why we do put money into the Major Events Fund into this Open because it does give us a link and a platform into Japan and Korea and helps strengthen that relationship."
The Rugby World Cup in Japan in 2019 and the Olympics in 2020 were also key events that would further open and strengthen ties.
"For New Zealand that's about a four year window to really recharge the Japanese New Zealand relationship."
Joyce and Key said the New Zealand Open had become a valuable platform in the relationship, with strong Japanese involvement.
Key said the reason the government was supportive of the tournament was because it was trying to tie greater business links together between some very big partners in Japan and Korea.
This year the Government spent $950,000 sponsoring the tournament.
"We know that golf is loved in those places and...sport can draw countries together and therefore draw the investment and engagement together and that's really the aim of what we're doing."
Twenty six players from the the world's third-largest golf tour, the Japan Golf Tour, are participating.
Japan-based non-profit corporation ISPS Handa, is a co-naming rights sponsor of the New Zealand Open, while the event receives significant support from Oji Holdings, Sumitomo Forestry and JTB. Co-hosting golf course Millbrook is owned by the Ichii family, also of Japan.
This year Japan's leading golf television network sent a crew to broadcast live coverage of the event to over 7.8 million homes in Japan.
Another link with Japan this year has been the presence of one of the stars of the Japanese rugby team that beat the South African team at last year's Rugby World Cup, Kosei Ono. A former Christchurch Boys High student he is working with Tourism New Zealand while participating in the tournament.
Tournament organising committee chairman John Hart said he hoped a co-sanctioning agreement would be in place with Japan by 2017.
Joyce said future opportunities with Japan included investment in tourism infrastructure - with hotel investment in New Zealand crucial in the next few years; tariffs starting to come off meat and wine would offer food processing opportunities and there would be more opportunities in the education market.
"I'm very bullish on our relationship with Japan...Before it was apparent the TTP was going to happen I think most people would have said 'What's the catalyst to reinvigorate the New Zealand Japan relationship?' I think now the TPP is there and those major sports tournaments, as well as opportunities like the golf Open -they just give that opportunity."