Gerry Brownlee: Expo-sing New Zealand to the world

The queue for New Zealand's pavilion at the World Expo in Shanghai in 2010.
Patrick Crewdson

The queue for New Zealand's pavilion at the World Expo in Shanghai in 2010.

OPINION: New Zealand continues to reap the benefits of our participation at the last World Expo, seven years on from Shanghai 2010.

New Zealanders should be enthusiastic about the opportunities our attendance at Expo 2020, being held in Dubai, will generate.

The theme of Expo 2020 is ;'Connecting Minds, Creating the Future;' and New Zealand has been invited to participate in the sustainability precinct. Expo 2020 enables the New Zealand Story to be told on a global stage in a way that would be difficult to replicate beyond an event of this scale and magnitude.

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is part of the Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC) made up of Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and Saudi Arabia. These countries are extremely wealthy and, over the last decade, the region has been one of New Zealand's fastest-growing markets outside China.

Through Budget 2017, we're committing $53.3 million over the next four years to design, construct, operate and promote a New Zealand Pavilion that will allow Kiwi businesses to highlight their innovative products and services and open doors to new export markets.

Our $53.3 million is about 0.5 per cent of the current New Zealand export to Gulf States.

Post Shanghai, with a free trade agreement in place, New Zealand exports have grown by 300 per cent – to more than $6 billion annually.

It's expansion of this magnitude that Expo 2020 presents. It will allow us to challenge the perception of New Zealand beyond agricultural commodities and tourism, to high-value growth sectors in food and beverage, IT, health, infrastructure and education.

Despite their substantial wealth, GCC members all share a problem – the virtual absence of farmable land. As a consequence, there is a strong demand for imported food and beverages that are high quality, healthy and halal.

Tegel is one example of a New Zealand company doing extremely well in the region since entering the UAE market in 2014, selling a range of chicken products to Dubai's high-end supermarkets.

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Key benefits identified by the indicative business case include increased inbound investment, increased exports to both existing and new markets, enhanced international relations with the UAE and other Gulf countries and improved business connections.

Expo 2020 is expecting 25 million visitors from all corners of the globe and is the first World Expo to be held in this part of the world.

Crucially for New Zealand exporters and our tourism industry, up to 80 per cent of visitors are expected to be the high-end purchasers. This enhanced level of international business visitor is a major point of difference compared to previous expos.

Emirates Airlines and Qatar Airways provide New Zealand with essential global links and freight capacity, boosting our economy and helping New Zealand become more prosperous and connected. The two airlines operate 42 flights into New Zealand every week. Securing additional international flights would have major benefits for our destination marketing and price competition.

The benefits of attending Expo 2020 will be immense and will allow New Zealand to raise its existing profile. World Expos are internationally important events that generate huge buzz and showcase the achievements of our global neighbours.

As a government, we carefully consider whether participation in a World Expo will provide our country with benefits that outweigh the cost. Expo 2020 promises to provide significant economical and entrepreneurial advantages and I urge Kiwi businesses to take part.

Gerry Brownlee is the Minister of Foreign Affairs.

 - The Dominion Post


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