New Zealand Treasury boss calls for country to improve its understanding of Asian markets

By on 11/03/2016 | Updated on 24/09/2020
Gabriel Makhlouf speaking at Global Government Forum's Global Government Finance Summit in Singapore.

New Zealand needs to develop a “richer understanding of the complexities of Asian markets” so its economy can better integrate into the region, the top civil servant at the helm of New Zealand’s Treasury has said.

Giving a speech in Auckland on 9 March, secretary to the Treasury Gabriel Makhlouf said New Zealand’s “economic future is increasingly bound up in Asia’s.”

The exponential growth of China’s economy has brought “both opportunities and challenges for New Zealand,” he said, but warned that “Asia’s economy is far broader and more complex than China alone.”

India, he said, is now “growing faster than China, and many commentators think it will succeed China as the next large economy in Asia to develop as a market and trading partner for New Zealand.”

Japan, he added, “although growing more slowly, remains the third largest economy in the world and a critical trading partner for high value products and an important source of investment.”

Makhlouf set out three areas “essential for deepening our connections with Asia: the flows of trade, capital, and people.”

While he welcomed the many Free Trade Agreements New Zealand holds with countries in the Asia-Pacific region, Makhlouf said that “we need to ask ourselves if there are other, more effective ways to meet New Zealand’s trade objectives over the short and the longer term – we need to think differently.”

He argued that there needs to be a debate about the “importance of foreign investment for business” and about “where that investment is from or how the source of investment may change over time.”

He predicted that, with Asia being the destination for around 40% of New Zealand exports but representing only 16% of its foreign direct investment stocks, over time “Asia will become an increasingly important source of foreign capital for New Zealand.”

With flows of migrants and visitors from Asia into New Zealand increasing, he said, “both the public and private sectors need to be thinking more systematically and holistically about becoming more Asia-capable,” adding that “this raises questions about how the education sector supports and enables our young people to have a greater understanding of Asian languages and cultures.”

Makhlouf called for New Zealand’s organisations “to think about how we can become more diverse and inclusive to bring new ideas and fresh perspectives in the same way as we might think about gender or Maori diversity as adding value.”

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See also:


Interview: Jane Halton, Secretary, Department of Finance, Australia

Interview: Iain Rennie, state services commissioner, New Zealand

Colin MacDonald, CIO for the government of New Zealand: Exclusive Interview

Interview: Gabriel Makhlouf, Treasury, New Zealand

About Winnie Agbonlahor

Winnie is news editor of Global Government Forum. She previously reported for Civil Service World - the trade magazine for senior UK government officials. Originally from Germany, Winnie first came to the UK in 2006 to study a BA in Journalism & Russian at the University of Sheffield. She is bilingual in English and German, and, after spending an academic year abroad in Russia and reporting for the Moscow Times, Winnie also speaks Russian fluently.

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