Kiwi firm trailblazes route to China

01:34, Oct 09 2013
Willoughby standard
Plinius Audio chief executive Brian Willoughby

A small Christchurch audio equipment maker has become the first company in the world to achieve a crucial trade pathway into China.

Plinius Audio is the first Kiwi firm to have its gear CCC-certified (China Compulsory Certification) at home.

The breakthrough takes advantage of a clause in the New Zealand/China Free Trade Agreement (FTA), and is therefore also a world first.

In addition to improving his own company’s prospects in China, Plinius CEO Brian Willoughby  hopes to offer the service to overseas competitors trying to access the Chinese market.

Electrical goods must gain the CCC safety standard before they can be exported to China, and up until now that inspection process had to be handled at the Chinese end.

As part of the 2008 Free Trade Agreement New Zealand negotiated the ability to get CCC approval done here.

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However there was no infrastructure in this country enabling the process.

It has taken almost six years, but Plinius now has two Christchurch-based inspectors able to make sure Kiwi factories and products comply with the Chinese standards.

‘We have a little edge now in China,’’ Willoughby said.

‘‘The Chinese distributor has faith that we’re taking the business up in China seriously. (It means) less compliance costs to get products over the border, and we can do it faster.’’

Because of the problem with rip-off gear in China it also proved the authenticity of Plinius equipment, he said.

Plinius received help from the New Zealand Manufacturers and Exporters Association (NZMEA) in its quest to set up the CCC-approval framework.

Chief executive John Walley said the fact it took over five years to achieve ‘‘speaks volumes’’.

Trade in elaborately transformed goods such as electrical products in the developed world was built on years of mutual recognition, but in the developing world was much more complicated, he said.

The FTA had boosted New Zealand’s trade in primary products to China but exports of many manufactured goods had not benefited.

‘‘We signed off a mutual recognition agreement but it didn’t take into account the fact the systems didn’t exist.’’

It took three years to get government officials ‘‘who don’t see much beyond white powder’’ focused on the problem.

Plinius’ efforts were a substantial step for New Zealand manufacturing. ‘‘Now he’s opened the door other people are going to be scampering through it.’’

Willoughby said he knew of a local lighting company and a scientific equipment manufacturer who were interested in the local CCC certification.

Plinius makes high-end audio gear and its first locally CCC-approved products are integrated amplifiers for domestic use. The firm has eight staff, and exports most of its production.

Since the FTA was signed in 2008, most of the growth in New Zealand exports to China had been in sales of primary products which had increased over 300 per cent, a recent report from the NZMEA said.

‘‘Export growth from our elaborately transformed sector is critical to the future wellbeing of the New Zealand economy,’’ it said.

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