Sydney Leadership Forum focuses on building Asia-ready capabilities

Thursday 28 November 2013, 1:24PM
By Business NZ

The 9th Australia New Zealand Leadership Forum, which took place in Sydney on Wednesday 27 November, concluded with delegates resolving to build the capacity of both countries to take advantage of new opportunities in the Asia Pacific region, say the Forum Co-Chairs.

“The bigger regional context in which New Zealand and Australia need to ‘co-operate to compete’ was brought home to those attending this year’s Forum” said New Zealand Co-Chair Jonathan Ling.

“The trans-Tasman economy stands on the door-step of unprecedented growth and opportunity but more needs to be done to complete our own single market and ensure we are integrated in the region to which we belong.”

“Becoming Asia-fit involves action by government, business and the wider community”, said Australian Co-Chair, Rod McGeoch AM.

“Governments need to improve the climate for trans-Tasman investment and pay close attention to the effectiveness of regulatory frameworks.  Business needs to upscale in terms of Asia skills, capability and research.  Communities need to develop greater Asian awareness and cross-cultural understanding including learning Asian languages.”

This year’s Forum was held as both countries mark the 30th anniversary of the Closer Economic Relations (CER) agreement.  This was reflected in the Forum theme “CER to Asia – Australia and New Zealand; the next thirty years”.

“CER has been the springboard for the development of the trans-Tasman economy. Work to finish the single economic market needs to be accelerated to eliminate remaining barriers to goods, services and investment, accelerate capital flows and expand tourism” said Jonathan Ling.

“CER is also the genesis of a lot of the thinking in the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations now underway.  TPP can provide a new bridgehead for Australia and New Zealand in Asia-Pacific markets and extend the benefits of CER through deeper integration in the wider region” said Rod McGeoch.

At the Forum it was announced that the New Zealand Co-Chair role would pass to Andrew Thorburn, Managing Director and Chief Executive of Bank of New Zealand (BNZ).  Mr Thorburn will join Rod McGeoch in co-chairing the Forum’s Policy Group which will develop the agenda for the 2014 Forum.  The Policy Group is supported by a Secretariat provided by BusinessNZ.

“As we leave Sydney we intend to continue work we have started in relation to capital flows, market access and tourism” said Mr Thorburn.

“We plan to develop a new agenda focusing on monitoring governments’ progress in implementing recommendations from the recent Joint Productivity Commissions’ report and developing messaging around the benefits of foreiogn direct investment.  We want to think also about developing our capacity to welcome increased numbers of tourists from Asia as well as boosting SMEs’  Asia capabilities more generally”.

BusinessNZ CEO Phil O’Reilly thanked Jonathan Ling for his leadership of the Forum and congratulated Andrew Thorburn on his appointment.

The Leadership Forum was organised by the Trans-Tasman Business Circle (TTBC).  The event was attended by over 100 delegates and addressed by the New Zealand Deputy Prime Minister, Hon Bill English and the Australian Minister of Foreign Affairs Hon Julie Bishop MP.   Other Ministers attending for Australia were Treasurer Hon Joe Hockey MP, Trade Minister Hon Andrew Robb MP and Communications Minister Hon Andrew Turnbull MP.  Ministers attending for New Zealand were Economic Development Minister Hon Steven Joyce, Foreign Minister Hon Murray McCully, Trade Minister Hon Tim Groser and Commerce Minister Hon Craig Foss.  The New Zealand Leader of the Opposition, Hon David Cunliffe, and Hon Matt Thistlethwaite MP representing the Australian Labour Party also addressed the Forum.