17 Jun 2011

NZ strategy for China trade criticised

2:52 pm on 17 June 2011

New Zealand businesses are being accused of squandering opportunities from the country's free trade deal with China.

The Government has sent representatives to Beijing to meet with high-profile businessman David Mahon, who says New Zealand needs to sort out its strategy.

Although exports of logs and dairy products have boomed since the trade deal was signed, Mr Mahon says other industries lack the scale to make an impression.

He says development agency Trade and Enterprise is cementing that disadvantage by funding firms individually to break into China, rather than encouraging them to work together.

Taking the wine industry as an example, Mr Mahon says if companies worked together New Zealand could establish itself in the premium imported wine sector, at present dominated by France and Australia.

Trade Minister Tim Groser says dealing with China is going to be a learning experience for New Zealand and Mr Mahon can play a valuable part.

Trade and Enterprise chief executive Peter Crisp and former trade negotiator Charles Finny have been sent to hear Mr Mahon's concerns and report back to the Government.

Silver Ferns Farms chief executive Keith Cooper has told Morning Report it is premature to say New Zealand is squandering opportunities.

Mr Cooper says the collaborative approach is the best way to tackle the market, but it is up to commercial enterprises to do that.

Last year, Silver Fern and two other meat exporters failed in their attempt to unite in a joint venture to tackle the Chinese market.