Southern Link Conference: Auckland

Making New Zealand a major and natural connection between China and South America, was one of the key themes at the ‘Building the Southern Link’ conference, held in Auckland on June 25. 

Over 150 business people, government officials and leaders from New Zealand, China, Argentina and Chile attended. 

The conference was co-hosted by New Zealand China Council, Latin America New Zealand Business Council, Consejo Argentino Para Las Relaciones Internacionales (CARI), Fudan University and Chile Pacific Foundation. 

Minister for Trade and Export Growth, Hon David Parker, opened the conference with the statement that ‘New Zealand’s relationships with South America are linked to our relationships with Asia’ and noted that conditions are now right to expand collaboration between Asia and South America, using New Zealand’s geographic position. 

Minister Parker went on to say that our location is increasingly an advantage, “It means we can manage pests and diseases at the border in a way that few other countries can. Yet Asia and South America are now within direct flights from New Zealand. The growth of Asia has meant that for the first time in history, our location is adjacent to the fastest growing markets on the planet. Geography that was once a trading disadvantage, is now a strategic opportunity for our diversified and regionally integrated economy”. 

 “Currently, 53% of New Zealand exports go to Asia and around 13% to the Americas. These rely on trans-Pacific shipping, and, for perishable goods and tourism, efficient air transport. Both forms of transport are critical to our economic well-being. Continuing to improve the connections that allow New Zealanders and our trading partners to engage across the world helps us all. 

The scale of the opportunity was highlighted by speakers from both China and South American countries. Professor Huang Renwei from Fudan University pointed out that China is now South America’s second-largest trade partner, and that New Zealand is the ideal aviation link and mid-way meeting point between the two continents.  

The Latin America Centre of Asia-Pacific Excellence guest speaker Loreto Leyton, Executive Director of the Chile Pacific Foundation, also provided the example of a high capacity undersea data cable being scoped that would connect Asia with South America. Alongside the flow of people and physical goods, building connectivity in the digital space could benefit e-commerce, telecommunications, data transfer and cloud services along the Southern Link. 

A working group has now been established to pick up the ideas from the conference and will develop specific action plans needed to begin the process of turning the Southern Link from concept into reality. 

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