New Zealand Trade Trends in the Asia Pacific

“Free trade is good for business,” said Leon Grice during his visit to LMU on February 8 as part of the Center for Asian Business Y.B. Min Lecture Series. “It’s not just about lowering tariffs but protecting trade agreements to create a level playing field.”

Leon is the New Zealand Consul General in Los Angeles, a position he’s held since 2012. He’s also chairman of the New Zealand United States Business Council, New Zealand’s premier business, trade and economic policy advocacy organization.

Leon spoke about free trade from a personal point of view. As a New Zealand native, he remembers when Great Britain joined the European Union back in 1973 which caused serious realignment issues in the Asia Pacific. New Zealand experienced a massive cultural shift and economic upheaval that forced the country to find new trade partners. Only in the last 15 years have general perceptions shifted from pessimism to optimism.

Today, New Zealand is the world’s most activist free trader. New Zealand currently has 10 free trade agreements in place with various countries including Australia, Singapore, China, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Korea, and several trade agreements under negotiation with Russia-Belarus-Kazakhstan, India and the Arab states. There’s also an opportunity to reinstate a free trade agreement with Great Britain now that it was exited the European Union.

Leon also shared his perspective on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). The U.S. has chosen to withdraw from this partnership as of January 2017. For now, TPP will look to ratify without the U.S. but Leon is hopeful that the U.S. will eventually join at some point in the future. He also predicts that the first bilateral agreement under the Trump Administration will likely be with Great Britain.

Leon discussed a few trade trends in the Asia Pacific including a massive Chinese investment called the Belt and Road initiative which will extend over 65 countries from China to Europe.

Leon ended with a simple principle of economics: the reason you export is so you can import, and the reason you import is so you can export. Imports are not bad, they’re good. And trade imbalances can be a good thing because it provides access to certain technologies and can make you a better global competitor.

The majority of Leon’s career has been in the private sector as a business owner. He founded a public affairs consultancy in 1995, a software development business in 2000, and a digital media network in 2006. Leon has bachelor degrees in history and political science from the University of Canterbury.

Click here to access the full webcast of Leon’s presentation.