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Phil Goff: Contemporary China Research Centre

Written By: - Date published: 6:25 pm, July 2nd, 2014 - 9 comments
Categories: China, Economy, Environment, exports, farming, farming, food, International, labour, phil goff, Politics, trade - Tags: , ,

phil goffReposted from Labour’s website.

Speech by Hon Phil Goff MP, Labour Trade Spokesperson, Victoria University, 2 July 2014

The Central Committee of China’s Communist Party’s decisions at a Plenary meeting would, two decades ago, have been of limited interest to New Zealand.

The situation today is very different.

China’s importance in the global economy and the size of its trade with New Zealand means that reforms to its economy are now very relevant to us.

China two years ago became our largest trading partner and the largest export market for our goods.

Just last week, two-way trade between our countries passed the $20 billion per annum benchmark.  By 2020, it could easily exceed $30 billion on present growth projections.

Growth in demand for high quality, safe and protein rich food by China’s growing middle class has been phenomenal.

Last year, the sale of NZ dairy products soared from $2 billion to $4 billion in one year.

Trade in New Zealand logs peaked at $1.7 billion though that is reducing sharply as the infrastructure boom in China is wound back.

Sheep meat exports moved from 1 per cent of NZ’s lamb exports in 2009 to 35 per cent last year valued at $670 million.  Beef exports jumped 271 per cent to $190 million.  An astounding $240 million worth of live crayfish, almost all of our exports, went to China last year.

Growth of trade in services has been similarly spectacular.  China has remained our largest source of international students at 24,000.   Tourism leapt to 250,000 a year making China our second biggest source of tourists.

That growth has been incredibly valuable to us.  When Europe and the US markets during the GFC were shrinking, growth in demand from China stopped New Zealand from facing the same depth in economic crisis as other western economies.

The increasing level of dependence by New Zealand on a narrow range of primary sector commodities and one market has at the same time caused some concern.  Having too many eggs in one basket creates risks.

China takes nearly 23 per cent of our total exports, up from 6 per cent in 2010.  That is still a long way from the level of dependence we had on the United Kingdom in the 1950s and 1960s.

However, within 10 years our exports to China could be around 30 per cent of our exports, a similar level to what we had with the UK at the time it entered the EEC in 1974.

Indirectly we are even more dependent on China because of its high level of trade with other important trading partners like Australia.  China is the largest trading partner for some 124 other countries.  If the Chinese economy were to collapse, the direct and indirect effects on New Zealand’s trade and economy would be dire.

The catalyst for the growth in trade was the high quality, comprehensive Free Trade Agreement I signed in the Great Hall of the People with Chen Deming in 2008.

The timing was perfect.

It coincided with the cumulative impact of decades of consistently high growth in the Chinese economy.  That produced an urban middle income group of over 300 million who had disposable income and a hunger for high protein and high quality food.

That demand is likely to be sustained into the future.  While demand for hard commodities like iron ore and coal is diminishing as the boom in infrastructure promoted by the Chinese Government to counter the effects of the GFC is wound back, demand for soft commodities like dairy is continuing to increase.

China is not able to meet this demand internally, with the current state of its agriculture and constraints on water and agricultural land.

When prices are high, however, other competitors are drawn into the market.  It is unlikely that dairy prices will be sustained at their current level.  As recent events have shown, nor can we be complacent about our reputation for high quality safe food.

Real damage was done to our reputation by the DCD and botulism scares.  It could have been even worse.  The New Zealand Government through its restructuring, cost-cutting and understaffing of MFAT and MPI must bear some responsibility for that.  Likewise Fonterra whose communication strategy and quality safeguards fell well short of the mark.

Aside from these issues, what are the risks of an economic crisis or downturn in the Chinese economy that might damage New Zealand given our growing dependence on it?  And will the reforms foreshadowed at the Third Plenum mitigate these risks?

Pessimists point to the slowing rate of growth in the Chinese economy.  They point out that China is no longer increasing its share of the US and European import markets.

They highlight growing debt levels, an appreciating currency where the RMB is 35 per cent up against the US dollar compared to 2005, and that China’s low cost advantage has been blunted by rising wages which have tripled in the past decade.  Internal inefficiencies, bureaucracy and corruption undermine China’s performance.

However, these things should be seen in context.  After 30 years of double digit growth, it is entirely predictable that the rate of growth will slow.  It is also worth pointing out that while growth in 2009 was 9.2 per cent, it produced increased value of 2.7 trillion RMB.  In 2013 growth was lower at 7.7 per cent but because it came from a much higher base, added value was in fact five trillion RMB.

China’s debt has gone up but as a percentage of GDP it is still lower than Germany’s, the least indebted of the G7 countries.

The NZ Treasury last year concluded that there are cyclical risks to China’s economic performance in the medium term but the risks were manageable.

The Reserve Bank in May of this year warned of the build-up of fragilities in the financial sector.  The so-called shadow banking sector runs higher risks than the more regulated and supervised banking sector.

Local government financing vehicles face significant funding and liquidity risks.  There is a risk of a sharp decline in property prices which could reduce household wealth and trigger more widespread asset losses in the financial sector.

The Reserve Bank warned that a contraction in Chinese demand could have a major impact on New Zealand’s exports.

However it reported that reforms in the Third Plenum aimed at liberalising interest rates, reforming local government finances and improving transparency and regulation in the shadow banking sector addressed these risks.

The central government in China holds extensive assets and foreign reserves.  External debts are minimal and central government debt low.  The Chinese Government, it said, therefore has the capacity to intervene to stabilise financial markets and manage the risks.

The Third Plenum and the leadership of Xi Jinping mark a clear commitment by the new Administration in China to address the need for economic, social and environmental reform in China.

Comparing it with the land mark reforms of Deng Xiaoping at the Third Plenum of 1978 may be an exaggeration.

The 1978 reforms marked the abandonment of Mao’s disastrous economic policies and political management and a platform to launch China’s opening up and reform.

The 2013 reforms build on preceding changes and mark an intensification of efforts to address outstanding problems.

The most significant change will be to allow the market to play a more decisive role in the allocation of resources, and to price those resources accordingly.  The power of SOEs will be curbed and new areas opened up for private sector investment and competition.  Unnecessary red tape and regulation will be cut.  Financial markets will be liberalised and improved and the tax system further reformed.

Social reforms are also significant.  Most families will be allowed to have a second child if they choose.  The hukou or household registration system will be reformed to give rural migrants equal access to public services.  Re-education via labour systems will be abolished.

The crackdown on corruption has already seen over 31,000 officials convicted in 2013 and has reached up to the highest levels of the Party.  Importantly the crackdown has been sustained and appears likely to continue to apply pressure to change an entrenched culture.

There is a renewed commitment to addressing the air, water and soil pollution caused by decades of subordinating the environment to rapid economic development.

The reforms, however, don’t embrace political liberalisation.  Media censorship has tightened and the pervasive and dominant role of the Party entrenched.

It remains to be seen whether the intent of reforms can be realised without the accountability that the rule of law, an independent judiciary and free media and upholding of human rights provides in a democratic society.

To conclude, it is too early to judge conclusively what impact the Third Plenum reforms will have on China’s economy and society and on us and the region.  The need for reform is undoubted, the commitment to reform and leadership of it apparently strong and the general direction of the reform positive.

The ability to implement it and whether the extent of necessary reform goes far enough are both less certain.

New Zealand will benefit economically from the successful implementation of reform because of the high level of interaction between our economy and China’s.  So too will the region.

New Zealand should seize the opportunities China offers us as a trading partner and make changes to ensure we are best able to realise the full potential it offers.

At the same time we would be wise to make strenuous efforts to diversify our export markets and the narrow export base our country relies on.

That is a common sense safeguard against the risks that dependency on any one market or narrow range of products involves.

With reform and continuing economic success, China’s influence over us, the region and the world will grow commensurately.  Political and military power grows with economic power.

Our engagement with China and the balancing of our relationships with China and the other super power in our region, the United States, will more and more become front and centre of New Zealand’s foreign and trade policy.

9 comments on “Phil Goff: Contemporary China Research Centre”

  1. ianmac 1

    And of course much bigger countries can up their milk production and out bid NZ. Not sure if this Government will bail out the farmers should there be a significant fall in income.
    And value added of other products like timber might help broaden our base.

  2. AmaKiwi 2

    Thank you, Phil, for a very comprehensive and timely analysis.

  3. Colonial Viper 3

    Basically, the above covers why the US decided to move an extra carrier group into the Pacific, and why it is supporting the remilitarisation of Japan above and beyond its self-defence mandate (and directly against the will of ordinary Japanese citizens).

    NZ needs a sovereign, independent foreign policy or we will be caught up in the BS of inevitable superpower wrangling in the Pacific over the next 10 years.

  4. greywarbler 4

    I put this in Open Mike earlier but I think it should be noted here too.

    RadioNZ 8:12 am Sunday 6 July: Insight: NZ’s tiptoe relationship with the US and China

    The Prime Minister, John Key’recent trip to New York was focused on lobbying permanent ambassadors at the United Nations to support New Zealand’s bid for a non-permanent seat on the Security Council in 2015/1.New Zealand has been selling itself as a sensible and moderate nation that prides itself on taking an independent view.

    But the main reason for John Key’s visit to the United States was to spend time with the President , Barack Obama, reinforcing Wellington’s warming relationship with Washington.
    America’s so-called “rebalance” towards the Asia-Pacific region, a policy thought to be prompted by the rising presence of China in the region. But could that also put NZ in a difficult position as it tries to balance its important relationships with both the US and China?

    Radio New Zealand Political reporter, Chris Bramwell, travelled with Mr Key to the US and explores how difficult that balancing act might be.

  5. geoff 5

    Here’s the tldr….China is important

    The most interesting part for me was the language that Goff used in this paragraph:

    The most significant change will be to allow the market to play a more decisive role in the allocation of resources, and to price those resources accordingly. The power of SOEs will be curbed and new areas opened up for private sector investment and competition. Unnecessary red tape and regulation will be cut. Financial markets will be liberalised and improved and the tax system further reformed.

    Yes that’s what China really needs, liberalised financial markets.
    I don’t suppose Phil looked too closely at why the GFC occurred…

  6. Stuart Munro 6

    In Goff’s universe it seems these deals are a triumph. Oddly enough, NZ seems a much poorer and more desperate place, triumphs notwithstanding. Some analysis of costs and benefits of trade deals is overdue – the more so with the TPP looming. I’m not quite sure that Goff is sufficiently detached to do that analysis either.

  7. greywarbler 7

    This morning Kathryn Ryan RadioNZ 9.20ish Thurs 3/7.

    Professor David Shambaugh is an internationally acclaimed commentator on contemporary China. He is a Professor of Political Science and International Affairs, and the Director of the China Policy Program at the Elliott School of International Affairs, George Washington University.

    Professor Shambaugh was the keynote speaker at a conference hosted by Victoria University of Wellington’s New Zealand Contemporary China Research Centre on Wednesday 2 July, which contemplated the radical policy reforms that were proposed by the Communist Party of China’s Central Committee at the 2013 Third Plenum.

    His talk is titled: “New policies – has China done enough to secure its future? China at the crossroads.”

  8. DH 8

    I’ve read this a couple of times & still end with the same question. What’s his point?

    • Olwyn 8.1

      I took it as an attempt to soften people’s attitudes toward the TPP, but I may well be reading too much into it. The obvious things I find worrying about it are those expressed by geoff and Stuart Munro: his continued enthusiasm for “financial liberalisation” and his delight in “triumphs” that tend to involve the clobbering of the very section of the population he is supposed to represent.

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    In 2010, National rammed the Electoral (Disqualification of Sentenced Prisoners) Amendment Bill through Parliament. Paul Quinn’s Member’s Bill existed because Paul Quinn thought anyone who’d been imprisoned was a serious offender, and serious offenders had ‘forfeited’ their right to vote.… ...
    GreensBy David Clendon MP
    2 days ago
  • Mainfreight ‘appalled’ by Government’s rail madness
    The Government has been given a serve by New Zealand-based international trucking and logistics firm Mainfreight which says it lacks a national transport strategy, and has treated rail badly, Labour's Transport spokesperson Phil Twyford says. The company has told shareholders it… ...
    2 days ago
  • National’s Health and Safety Reform Bill: less safety and fewer rights at...
    The New Zealand Council of Trade Unions is embarking on a campaign to fight the changes that weaken the Health and Safety Reform bill. As part of the campaign the CTU has organised vigils with the display of 291 crosses… ...
    GreensBy Denise Roche MP
    2 days ago
  • All options need to be put on meat sector table
    Farmers must be given every assurance that all potential risks have been considered before Silver Fern Farms opens its door to foreign equity, Labour’s Primary Industries spokesperson Damien O’Connor says. “The ongoing saga involving the meat sector and amalgamation has… ...
    3 days ago
  • Flag the referendum if 50% or more don’t vote
    Labour has moved to have the second flag referendum canned if the first attracts fewer than half the eligible number of voters, Opposition Leader Andrew Little says. “John Key has already wasted more than $8 million on his vanity project… ...
    3 days ago
  • 90,000 cars reclassified in botched ACC ratings
    New figures obtained by Labour show the ACC Minister’s botched motor vehicle levy system has resulted in 90,000 vehicles having to be reclassified so far – at a cost of $6 million, Labour’s ACC spokesperson Sue Moroney says. “Nikki Kaye’s… ...
    3 days ago
  • Brutal health cuts confirmed, crucial services suffer
    Chronic under-funding by National has seen the health budget slashed by $1.7 billion in just five years, Labour’s Health spokesperson Annette King says. A report by Infometrics, commissioned by Labour, shows health funding has been cut in four of the… ...
    3 days ago
  • Meth ring under Serco’s nose
    The news that two Serco inmates have been arrested for helping to run a methamphetamine ring from prison should be the final straw and see their contract cancelled, says Labour’s Corrections Spokesperson Kelvin Davis. “National has stood by Serco despite… ...
    4 days ago
  • Ministers failing women and their own targets
    New figures showing just five Ministers have met the Government’s own reduced targets for appointing women to state sector boards is evidence National is failing Kiwi women, Labour’s Women’s Affairs spokesperson Sue Moroney says. “The Ministry for Women’s 2015 Gender… ...
    4 days ago
  • Charges up for some as funding up for grabs
    A proposal being considered by the Government would see some people having to pay more for health care and district health boards forced to fight amongst themselves to fund regional health services, Labour’s Health spokesperson Annette King says “Information leaked… ...
    4 days ago
  • Stop experimenting on kids
    The trouble with the Charter school model is that it is a publicly funded experiment on children. The National Government has consistently put its desire to open charter schools ahead of the safety of the children in them, ignoring repeated… ...
    GreensBy Catherine Delahunty MP
    4 days ago
  • Bank puts the squeeze on mid Canterbury farmers
    News that an unnamed bank in Ashburton has put a receiver on notice over financially vulnerable farmers will send a chill through rural New Zealand, says Labour’s Finance Spokesperson Grant Robertson. “The Government needs to work with  New Zealand’s banks… ...
    5 days ago
  • Key is trading away New Zealand land and homes
    John Key yesterday admitted what National dishonestly refused to confirm in Parliament last week – he is trading away New Zealand’s right to control who buys our homes and land, says Opposition leader Andrew Little. “The Prime Minister must now… ...
    5 days ago
  • Razor gang takes scalpel to health
    Plans by the Government to take a scalpel to democratically elected health boards are deceitful and underhand, coming just months after an election during which they were never signalled, Labour’s Health spokesperson Annette King says “Leaked documents reveals a radical… ...
    5 days ago
  • Spin lines show a department in chaos
    Corrections Spin Doctors sending their place holder lines to journalists instead of responding to serious allegations shows the scale of chaos at the department over the Serco scandal, says Labour’s Corrections Spokesperson Kelvin Davis. “As more and more serious allegations… ...
    7 days ago
  • Court ruling shows law should never have been passed
    A High Court ruling that a law banning prisoners from voting is inconsistent with a properly functioning democracy should be a wake-up call for the Government, Labour’s Justice spokesperson Jacinda Ardern says. In an unprecedented ruling Justice Paul Heath has… ...
    1 week ago
  • Judicial Review Gamble Pays Off for Problem Gambling Foundation
    Congratulations are due to the Problem Gambling Foundation (PGFNZ) who have won their legal case around how the Ministry of Health decided to award their contracts for problem gambling services to another service provider. Congratulations are due not just for… ...
    GreensBy Denise Roche MP
    1 week ago
  • Environmental Protection Agency appoints GE advocate as new CEO
    This week, the Environmental Protection Authority Amendment Bill passed its first reading in Parliament. The Bill puts protection of the environment into the core purpose of the Environmental Protection Authority. This month, Dr Allan Freeth, the former Chief Executive of… ...
    GreensBy Steffan Browning MP
    1 week ago
  • Charanpreet Dhaliwal death demands genuine health and safety reform
    The killing of a security guard on his first night on the job is exactly the kind of incident that National’s watered-down health and safety bill won’t prevent, says Te Atatu MP Phil Twyford. The coronial inquest into 22-year-old Charanpreet… ...
    1 week ago
  • Arbitrary sanctions hit children hardest
    Increasing numbers of single parents are being penalised under a regime that is overly focussed on sanctions rather than getting more people into work, Labour’s Social Development spokesperson Carmel Sepuloni says. “Figures, obtained through Parliamentary questions show 3000 more sanctions,… ...
    1 week ago
  • Hekia just won’t face the facts
    Hekia Parata’s decision to keep troubled Whangaruru Charter school open despite being presented with a catalogue of failure defies belief, goes against official advice and breaks a Government promise to close these schools if they were failing, says Labour’s Education… ...
    1 week ago
  • No more silent witnesses
    Yesterday I attended the launch of a new initiative developed by and for Asian, Middle eastern and African youth to support young people to name and get support if there is domestic violence at home. The impact on children of… ...
    GreensBy Jan Logie MP
    1 week ago
  • Single Use Plastic Bags campaign – Some wins and some green-washing
    As we near the end of Plastic Free July I’m nearing the conclusion of my Say No To Plastic Bag tour when I will have completed all 30 of my public meetings. The campaign was designed to work with community… ...
    GreensBy Denise Roche MP
    1 week ago
  • Single Use Plastic Bags campaign – Some wins and some green-washing
    As we near the end of Plastic Free July I’m nearing the conclusion of my Say No To Plastic Bag tour when I will have completed all 30 of my public meetings. The campaign was designed to work with community… ...
    GreensBy Denise Roche MP
    1 week ago
  • Minister must take responsibility for problem gambling debacle
    The Government’s handling of the Problem Gambling Foundation’s axing in a cost-cutting exercise has been ham-fisted and harmful to some of the most vulnerable people in society, Associate Health Labour spokesperson David Clark says.“Today’s court ruling overturning the axing of… ...
    1 week ago
  • Labour will not support TPP if it undermines NZ sovereignty
    The Labour Party will not support the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement unless key protections for New Zealanders are met, Opposition leader Andrew Little says.“Labour supports free trade. However, we will not support a TPP agreement that undermines New Zealand’s sovereignty. ...
    1 week ago
  • Coleman can’t ignore latest warnings
    Resident doctors have advised that a severe staffing shortage at North Shore Hospital is putting patients’ lives at risk, Labour’s Health spokesperson Annette King says. “They say a mismatch between staffing levels and patient workloads at North Shore has… ...
    1 week ago
  • ACC must remove barriers to appeals
    The Government must prioritise removing barriers to justice for ACC claimants following a damning report by Acclaim Otago, Labour’s ACC spokesperson Sue Moroney says. “ACC Minister Nikki Kaye must urgently scrap her flawed plan to remove claimant’s right to redress… ...
    1 week ago
  • Six months’ paid parental leave back on the agenda
    Six months’ paid parental leave is back on the agenda and a step closer to reality for Kiwi parents after Labour’s new Member’s Bill was pulled from today’s ballot, the Bill’s sponsor and Labour MP Sue Moroney says. “My Bill… ...
    1 week ago
  • Sole parents at risk of having no income
    New requirements for sole parents to undertake a reapplication process after a year is likely to mean a large number will face benefit cancellations, but not because they have obtained work, Labour’s Social Development spokesperson Carmel Sepuloni says. “Increasing numbers… ...
    1 week ago
  • Juking the Welfare Stats Again
    Last week the government’s major initiative to combat child poverty (a paltry $25 increase) was exposed for what it is, a lie. The Government, through the Budget this year, claims to be engaging in the child poverty debate, but instead,… ...
    GreensBy Jan Logie MP
    1 week ago
  • OCR rate cut a result of flagging economy
    The Reserve Bank's decision to cut the Official Cash Rate to 3 per cent shows there is no encore for the so-called 'rock star' economy, says Labour's Finance Spokesperson Grant Robertson.   "Today's interest rate cut comes off the back… ...
    1 week ago
  • Reboot to an innovation economy, an Internet economy and a clean economy
    In my short 33 years on this planet we’ve seen phenomenal technological, economic and social change, and it’s realistic to expect the next 33 will see even more, even faster change. You can see it in the non-descript warehouse near… ...
    GreensBy Gareth Hughes MP
    1 week ago
  • Bill that puts the environment into the EPA passes first hurdle
    A Bill that puts the environment squarely into legislation governing the Environmental Protection Authority passed its first reading today, says Meka Whaitiri.  “I introduced this member’s bill as the current law doesn’t actually make protecting the environment a goal of… ...
    1 week ago
  • Key’s KiwiSaver deception exposed
    KiwiSaver statistics released today expose John Key's claim that the cutting of the kickstart payment "will not make a blind bit of difference to the number of people who join KiwiSaver” to be duplicitous, says Labour Finance Spokesperson Grant Robertson.  “Official… ...
    1 week ago
  • Minimum Wage Amendment Bill to protect contractors
    All New Zealanders should be treated fairly at work. Currently, the law allows non-employment relationships to be used to get around the minimum wage. This is unfair, says Labour MP David Parker. “The Minimum Wage (Contractor Remuneration) Amendment Bill, a… ...
    1 week ago
  • Bill raises bar to protect Kiwi farmland
    The Government’s rubber-stamping of every one of the nearly 400 applications from overseas investors to buy New Zealand farm land over the last three years proves tougher laws are needed, Labour MP Phil Goff says. “In the last term of… ...
    1 week ago
  • Costly flag referendum should be dumped
    John Key must ditch the flag referendum before any more taxpayer money is wasted, Opposition Leader Andrew Little says. “Millions of dollars could be saved if the Prime Minister called a halt to this hugely expensive, and highly unpopular, vanity… ...
    1 week ago
  • Nats letting Serco off scot free
    Government members have prevented Parliament’s Law and Order select committee from getting answers out of a senior Serco director about the fight clubs being run at Mt Eden prisons, says Labour’s Corrections Spokesperson Kelvin Davis. “At today’s Law and Order… ...
    1 week ago
  • Charter school experiment turns into shambles
    The National Government’s charter school experiment has descended into chaos and it’s time for Hekia Parata to stop trying to cover up the full extent of the problems, Labour’s Education spokesperson Chris Hipkins says. “The Education Minister must release all… ...
    1 week ago

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