Tēnā koutou katoa

It is fantastic to be here with you this afternoon, part of two days’ worth of conversations about three things that I hold very dear: inclusion, sustainability and trade.

Those elements are absolutely central to what gets me out of bed in the morning as CEO of Kono.

They are also fundamental to the new role which I formally assumed a couple of weeks ago, as the Chair of the APEC Business Advisory Council, or ABAC, which was set up by APEC Economic Leaders to advise them about the priorities and concerns of the Asia-Pacific business community.

I have been asked to speak about the new trade environment, and the implications for Aotearoa.    A weighty topic, that deserves discussion.

And today, I would like to start with a story.

This is the story of a heke, a migration.

Two centuries ago, my ancestors migrated from the North to the South in a series of epic migrations, settling in Te Tau Ihu, the northern South Island.  We were the original land-owners and providores of that land.   We lived by trading the fruits of our labour from its gardens, forests and waters.

Today, we still take immense pride in our role as purveyors of the finest foods and beverages grown from the land and waters that our tūpuna knew.

We are still traders – but today we export our products to over twenty-five countries around the Asia-Pacific and around the world.

We draw inspiration from the kono – the basket of produce that our people offer to guests in the proud tradition of manaakitanga.

Quite simply, at Kono we aspire to be the best indigenous food and beverage business in the world.  We are an exporter of award-winning wine, cider, seafood, fruit and natural fruit bars.

Our guiding principle is ‘love for the land, respect for the sea’.

Our purpose is to preserve and enhance our taonga for the benefit of current and future generations.   We want to create something that our community – our families, our staff, our customers and our associates – can be proud of, and benefit from.

And sustainability is central to everything that we do.

Fishing is a traditional source of economic and cultural wealth for Māori.  At Kono we use science-based catch plans and sustainable aquaculture approaches so we can meet demand without destroying the ecosystem.

Likewise, our wine and fruit is produced to the highest standards of sustainability and innovation.

And, as it happens, these are things that also help us to attain a premium position in global markets, responding to what our customers value.

So – inclusion, sustainability, trade.

It gives me huge pleasure to be able to bring those values into my role as the Chair of ABAC for 2021.

Through hosting ABAC, we have a genuine opportunity to help shape the wellbeing, not just of Asia-Pacific businesses, but of all in our communities for years to come.

Our theme for 2021 is “People, Place and Prosperity.”

Or as we like to think of it:  “Tāngata, Taiao, me te Taurikura”

People (tāngata) is at the heart of this new agenda – their well-being, their hopes and aspirations for a future beyond COVID.

Two of our key priorities are around greater inclusion for women and indigenous peoples, and continuing to find ways to build the capabilities of small businesses.

Of course, questions around inclusion are central to the “new trade environment” of the title.

In the last few years, the world has increasingly recognised that it is not enough simply to grow the pie.   Aggregate gains to the global economy or to our national economies is necessary – but it is certainly not sufficient – to create the kinds of societies we want to live in.

We must go further to ensure that everyone has a seat at the table.   In the words of the Putrajaya Vision which was agreed by APEC Economic Leaders, including the Rt Hon Jacinda Ardern, a few weeks ago, we are seeking an open, dynamic, resilient and peaceful Asia-Pacific community – “for the prosperity of all our people and future generations”.

We have a saying where I come from – “be good ancestors” – and I am delighted to see that ethos writ large in APEC too.

I am particularly excited to see what we can do to bring indigenous economic development to the forefront of the ABAC agenda – working with partners around the region including Peru, Chile, Chinese Taipei, Canada, Australia and others.

I want to see us unlock some of the huge potential in Māori business and communities: Kono and other food and beverage producers, along with dynamic digital firms, tourism and education, technology companies and so many more.

Like so many indigenous economies around the world, the Māori economy is a developing economy inside one which is already developed. But that status should not constrain how we think about indigenous economies.

The Māori economy is experiencing growth at a faster rate than the national economy.[1] Developing is not undeveloped. Developing is a sign of innovation, resilience and regeneration.

So, I want to see us raise the profile of indigenous peoples, and really think about how we can accelerate the empowerment of indigenous entrepreneurs, businesses and communities.

It’s not all that easy to get your arms around the shape of the problem or understand exactly what’s needed to solve it.   Like many of the issues in the “new trade environment”, this is relatively unchartered territory.  But we are making a good start.

So far, we have produced a comprehensive ecosystem report on the Maori economy and will continue to update it as new information is published; we have an alternate member proposal in the works to broaden the bench strength of Maori; we’re working with APEC on their Maori Success programme; we’re developing a rangatahi Maori programme ride-along style; and we’ve convened a Māori business advisory group called Kāhui Ārahi to help us provide some direction to these conversations.

So, I’m eager to see how far we can go on that important mahi.

Back to our three pillars.

Closely related to people is place (taiao).

Despite a contested political and economic context, we have the opportunity to show true leadership as an Asia-Pacific business community in addressing and mitigating climate change and building a low-carbon future.   My good friend and ABAC colleague Malcolm Johns will lead our work there.

Allied to that effort, we must consider how to expand the development of renewable energy, level the playing field for environmentally responsible goods and services and build a trade-friendly and digitally-enabled sustainable food system.

And of course, because we are at a trade conference, I cannot move on without mentioning the moral imperative to eliminate environmentally-harmful subsidies including those blighting fishing, agriculture production and fossil fuel use.

As businesses too we know a lot about the creation of value over time – this value is what gives rise to economic and social progress and brings me to our third pillar, prosperity (taurikura).

In 2021, as we contemplate COVID’s body blows to the region’s economies, we need to think more purposefully than ever before about what is needed for us to do business successfully and seamlessly in the Asia Pacific region.

Successful business is underpinned by effective trade rules, by processes and negotiations which reduce barriers over time and by an enabling environment for innovation, especially in the digital space.

Today our businesses are constrained by the pandemic, but we need to look to tomorrow and the ways in which our economies can be rebuilt and revitalised.   So we will be focusing on keeping the WTO strong and relevant, on building the Free Trade Area of the Asia Pacific, on unlocking the dynamism of the services sector, and on getting rid of those most noxious features of the new trade environment, non-tariff barriers.

Sadly, my time is nearly up – but let me share one final thought.  The APEC acronym is sometimes jokingly explained as “A Perfect Excuse for a Conversation” – well, like this conference itself, there has never been a more important time for that conversation to take place.

Kia ora.

[1] https://ourauckland.aucklandcouncil.govt.nz/articles/news/2019/05/measuring-maori-economy/

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