Philip Lewin

Philip Lewin, diplomat and business lobbyist: Died August 12, 2008, aged 48.
Philip Lewin was a highly regarded diplomat and business lobbyist who played an unsung role in advancing the free trade interests vital to New Zealand's economy.

He was probably best known as chief executive of the Wellington Regional Chamber of Commerce (2001-2004) and head of economic development agency Positively Wellington Business (2005- 2007). While he did much to promote business and economic development in those roles, his greatest contribution was his far less publicised career as a diplomat.

Mr Lewin took a lead role in the 1999 free trade agreement with Singapore – a building block of New Zealand's free- trade network – and was adviser to Trade Minister Philip Burdon in 1994 when he signed the Uruguay Round Final Act, also a milestone.

Educated at Wellington College and Victoria University, Mr Lewin was a Rhodes scholar at Oxford's Balliol College before he started as a desk officer at Foreign Affairs and Trade in 1985. He studied Russian before his first overseas posting to Moscow, where he watched the disintegration of the Soviet Union. From 1996, he spent three years as head of New Zealand's trade and economic section in Washington DC.

He left the ministry in 2001 to head the Wellington chamber, where he was succeeded by fellow former diplomat Charles Finny.

"We've lost someone who had real strengths, the sort of strengths we need for our economy," Mr Finny said.

Former National prime minister Jim Bolger, who was ambassador to the US while Mr Lewin was posted to Washington, said he was a major asset.

"Phil was an outstanding Mfat officer with his encyclopaedic knowledge on international trade policy and its many and challenging complexities. Phil was just a master at that.

"As a person, he was a wonderful friend, and a great colleague of mine in Washington and we enjoyed each other's company here in Wellington on many an occasion."

Sources: Dominion Post library, C Finny, J Bolger and others.

The Dominion Post