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Media StatementInternational connections crucial for New Zealand’s productivity

2 April 2009

New Zealand needs to be better connected to the world economy if the country wants to come out of the economic downturn in a stronger position to lift productivity, Treasury Secretary John Whitehead said today.

Speaking at a board meeting of the New Zealand International Business Forum, John Whitehead said there needed to be greater discussion and understanding of the importance of international connections for New Zealand’s future.

"At a time when globalisation is taking some of the blame for causing the current economic crisis, it is perhaps even more important to highlight the benefits from international connections. We need to repair globalisation, not reject it.

"The issue for New Zealand, as a relatively small country distant from major markets, is how to better connect to the world in ways that make us a more productive nation with higher living standards.  How do we encourage entrepreneurial and innovative activity to be located in New Zealand?  How do we ensure the costs of distance are as low as possible?  How do we best capture ideas and take advantage of the flow of people worldwide, including Kiwis overseas and migrants here?

"Policy makers risk missing big opportunities if they think of international connections as just something for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade or New Zealand Trade and Enterprise to consider. In reality, we need an international perspective applied consistently to policy advice across the board, and the practical actions businesses and individuals take."

John Whitehead’s appearance at the New Zealand International Business Forum meeting coincides with the release today of a new paper from the Treasury, International Connections and Productivity: Making Globalisation Work for New Zealand. The paper sets out current thinking and evidence on international connections and a set of policy considerations. Written primarily for policy makers and influencers, the paper also aims to encourage broader public discussion.

International Connections and Productivity: Making Globalisation Work for New Zealand adds to the series of Treasury Productivity Papers published in 2008 to stimulate debate on productivity as New Zealand’s central economic challenge. Those papers identified five drivers of productivity:  enterprise, innovation, skills, investment, and natural resources. International connections were identified as important for all five drivers.

The paper is available on the Treasury website at: http://www.treasury.govt.nz/publications/research-policy/tprp/09-01

ENDS

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