Prime Minister’s speech to Japanese business lunch

Speech – New Zealand Government

E ngā mana, e ngā reo, e ngā iwi, e ngā rau rangatira mā

Tēnā koutou katoa

Konnichi wa

Thank you for coming along today. It is an honour to be here and a pleasure to be back in Japan.

While this is my first official trip here as Prime Minister I have visited on a number of occasions. It isn’t an exaggeration to say I love it here.

My first visit was for the World Economic Forum Young Global Leaders’ event held here in Tokyo. While I was amongst an incredible group of people from around the world, it was my hosts that I remember.

One evening after the conference had concluded I was taking in the city when I stumbled across a small venue that was entirely dedicated to the All Blacks. I couldn’t help but pop in.

Despite a significant language barrier, the people who were there treated me like I myself had donned the black jersey. It was just one example to me of the special manaakitanga or hospitality Japan is so well known for. So thank you.

Let me start by thanking the Japan New Zealand Business Council and the Australian New Zealand Chamber of Commerce in Japan for co-hosting this event and especially chairs, Akira Ichikawa, Ian Kennedy and Sally Townsend.

Both organisations have been tireless in their support of trade and investment links between New Zealand and Japan, and your work is not only hugely important but also greatly appreciated.


Today I have a clear message for you – New Zealand is really ambitious and aspirational for what it can achieve with Japan.

In an increasingly disrupted global environment, where the old rules-based order is unravelling and traditional partnerships and alliances are changing, it is more important than ever for us to reinforce our enduring friendship and common interests.

New Zealand is stepping up its investment in the bilateral relationship. We share common values of freedom, democracy, rule of law and human rights as well as a strong commitment to peace and security, free trade and investment and sustainable development.

I hope you will have heard already during my visit here, how much we value Japan’s growing leadership role in the Indo-Pacific and also of our ambition to advance the strategic cooperative partnership we share.

While the business and investment links we share are well known, it is important to also celebrate the people to people connections we have. They support Japanese and New Zealand companies to be more successful in the region. That is a win for us both.

Yesterday, Prime Minister Abe hosted me in a Summit meeting and luncheon to advance our Strategic Cooperative Partnership.

Our talks highlighted the breadth of the relationship and identified new opportunities for cooperation.

Evidence of how much we have in common was contained in the breadth of the topics covered in the Joint Statement we issued, which reflected our shared vision for a safe and prosperous Indo-Pacific region. We are strengthening our strategic cooperative partnership including through cooperation in areas as diverse as:

• Building a closer security partnership including a joint study towards an Information Sharing Agreement; working together on cyber security; and implementing the Christchurch Call to eliminate terrorist and violent extremism online

• Increasing development cooperation in the Pacific

• Establishing closer regulatory cooperation on outer space and high altitude activities

• Increased cooperation in expanding renewable energy including geothermal resources, hydrogen and delivering on our climate change commitments

• Implementation and expansion of CPTPP to include new members

• Building our successful Partnership in Food and Agriculture.

Beyond our common interests and shared values, Japan is economically important to New Zealand. It is New Zealand’s fourth largest trading partner with two-way trade of $9 billion in 2019. Japan is an important source of high quality investment with total investments of $5.5 billion in New Zealand.

We also have close political ties and Japan’s leadership was critical to the successful conclusion of the CPTPP.

New Zealand is pleased to host the second CPTPP joint committee meeting in Auckland next month to strengthen the mechanisms and institutions needed to bring the agreement to life.

In 2021 New Zealand will host APEC, in Auckland, and we look forward to Japan’s participation, including your political and business leaders. We want APEC 2021 to support trade and investment flows in the region; advance sustainable and inclusive trade policies; and prepare our peoples and economies for the digital future.

I also want to acknowledge what a busy time it’s been.

Japanese leadership was demonstrated again at the G20 summit that Prime Minister Abe hosted, where leaders agreed to the principles of quality infrastructure in international aid.

This is an example of Japan’s global leadership making a difference, to ensure that international development is sustainable economically, environmentally and socially.

This leadership aligns with New Zealand’s values and approach to international aid. Prime Minister Abe and I agreed that for these reasons Japan and New Zealand can and will do more together, as development partners in the Pacific.

Just yesterday, my country celebrated Suffrage Day, marking the day in 1893 when women in New Zealand won the right to vote.

As you know, Abenomics includes a major programme to support more women into the workforce including through flexible work conditions and measures to encourage women to return to work following time out for child birth.

Those policies are obviously working, with more Japanese women in employment.

In New Zealand, we are also determined to eliminate the gender pay gap and to ensure that women’s representation in governance and leadership is increased. It is good economics and good for business.

New Zealand is also supporting Japan’s efforts to increase the number of women entering agriculture with training and experiences in New Zealand for young women.

It’s an area where we have a common agenda, and where I know we have more we can do.


Let me now take a moment to talk to you about New Zealand’s economic plans and agenda so you have a first-hand understanding of where my country is focusing.

The Government’s economic policies have delivered growth of 0.5 percent in the June quarter and average growth of 2.4 percent in the year ending June. That GDP data was released just yesterday, and shows that the New Zealand economy continues to outperform those of Australia, Canada, the Euro area, the UK, and the OECD average.

We have record low unemployment.

This is an economy that can be taken seriously as a place to invest and to do business.

Our economic plan is strong on investing in infrastructure – the springboard for future growth. This Government is investing record amounts in hospital and school building programmes, alongside large investments in transport safety, regional roads, and public transport, and we’ve done that while maintaining a responsible budget surplus.

On top of our ambitious economic plan and strong economic fundamentals, New Zealand ranks relatively close to the top of many international transparency, corruption and wellbeing indicators, and we have a high level of trust in government. We are consistently ranked number one in global surveys of ease of doing business and starting a business.

I hope that gives you some idea of New Zealand’s business and economic environment. Let me assure you, we are a busy, active government with a country that is very much open for business. We welcome quality foreign investment and can tell many success stories of investment from Japan.

For example, for decades companies like Sumitomo Forestry, Oji Holdings, Woodone and Nissui have been long term and highly valued investors in New Zealand industries, transferring technology, creating global connections and underpinning jobs in New Zealand’s regions.

New Zealanders recognise the long term commitment of Japanese companies and investors, and we value that commitment very highly. Today, we are seeing these partnerships evolve where more and more Japanese companies are partnering with New Zealand innovators and New Zealand is seeking Japanese innovation.

These new partnerships are addressing global challenges as diverse as climate change, the need for low cost renewable energy, and robotics to support the changing nature of work and our workforces.

Examples include:

• Obayashi Corporation and Tuaropaki Trust’s partnership developing a hydrogen production plant in Taupo powered by renewable energy coming from the Mokai geothermal station.

• Yamaha Motor Company has invested in Robotics Plus to scale New Zealand agtech knowledge and robotics innovation to address agricultural labour shortages around the globe.

We look forward to welcoming more investment partnerships with Japan.

It’s easy to do business in New Zealand. Our globally competitive economy is underpinned with stable political and regulatory systems, an innovative well-educated population and our proximity to 60 percent of the world’s population. We are a safe place to invest.


Let me finish by reinforcing how ambitious we are about our relationship with Japan. Together we are addressing some of the world’s most challenging issues, and experience shows that things work better when we work together. I look forward to that continuing.

Looking ahead, Japan’s hosting of major sporting events in the next three years is an exciting platform to increase our people to people connections and to do more business together.

They are bringing our nations together. They are bringing our people together. They are bringing our businesses together in partnership.

These major sporting events are a part of a much broader relationship that is growing. It is a relationship we are committed to strengthening.

Thank you for your time.

Tēnā kotou, tēnā kotou, tēnā tatou katoa.

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