Business Delegation Heads to Japan & China

18 July 2011

Mayor Celia Wade-Brown flew out of Wellington today at the head of a 32-member delegation that aims to consolidate business and cultural ties between Wellington and a number of cities in China and Japan.

The delegation will be 'on the road' for 10 days, visiting six cities.

Most delegation members represent local businesses - though representatives from Victoria University, Whitireia Polytechnic and Te Papa will also join the group.

The trip will have a particular focus on 'smart and green' technologies and business opportunities - and will also focus on such goals as a direct long-haul air connection between Wellington and south-east Asia.

The delegation will visit Wellington's Japanese Sister City, Sakai, and our Chinese Sister Cities Beijing and Xiamen.

Mayor Wade-Brown, accompanied by Councillor Jo Coughlan - Wellington City Council's Economy Portfolio Leader - says she is looking forward to her first official overseas trip but is prepared for a gruelling schedule.

"I'm aware that to lead, or be involved in, such delegations requires a great deal of stamina because the pace is so relentless, the days are long and there is an absolute need to be on your toes and attentive at every waking hour. However I also know that it is essential for a mayor to lead the group."

The group represents businesses ranging from healthcare and TV production IT and energy. Some of the delegation members were part of the previous Mayor-led group that visited China a year ago.

Mayor Wade-Brown says the delegation, supported by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade and the Wellington Regional Chamber of Commerce, has two clear goals: "To grow relationships and work further towards business the realisation of opportunities.

"The fact some delegation members are coming back for more - at no small expense to themselves ? is a salutary indication of the value of these trips.

"We will also collectively promote Wellington as a destination for business, education and tourism." 

She says New Zealand was the first developed country, three years ago, to sign a free-trade agreement with China - and since then business between the two nations has boomed. Last year it was confirmed that China had overtaken the United States as our second-largest export market. This is why businesspeople are joining us.

"Some resulting business could involve physical exports - but other business opportunities could be 'weightless' - in healthcare, creative, design and cultural areas for example."

Mayor Wade-Brown says she is aware a few critics doubt the value of such delegations. "However I'm going for the simple reason that mayors carry a level of prestige in China - and Japan - that enables us to open doors. This means members of the delegation will be able to meet and talk to powerful city and government officials in a way that they would never do if they flew there alone."

She says lucrative business proposals will be discussed and consolidated during the trip. "These arrangements can bring millions of dollars into the Wellington regional economy." Cr Coughlan and I will be able to share our understanding with a wider group of Wellington businesses on our return."

In the weeks leading up to this trip, business delegates were asked what they wanted to achieve. Mayor Wade-Brown says the three most commonly stated objectives were to build new relationships, develop stronger relationships with their Chinese counterparts, and gain a better understanding of doing business in China.

She adds that a survey conducted by the Council following last year's visit found 95% of the delegates reported that they were satisfied or very satisfied with the visit.

Mayor Wade-Brown adds the visits to Beijing, Sakai and Xiamen further strengthen long-standing relationships with Wellington. "My predecessors, starting with Mayor Jim Belich, have helped forge valuable ties with these cities. It is good for New Zealand's links with Japan and China - and our mutual understanding across cultures - to continue to make the effort to visit."