19 Apr 2024

Watch: Christopher Luxon speaks to media in Manila

5:30 pm on 19 April 2024

Prime Minister Christopher Luxon has defended some of the ways he's talked up New Zealand trade on his trip to Southeast Asia after some criticisms from his own delegation.

During a business lunch presentation, Comvita chairperson Brett Hewlett had said the constant refrain that New Zealand was now "open for business" was unhelpful messaging, since the country's trade had never been closed.

Luxon said those messages were "true".

"It's true, I mean we've had a great position in New Zealand in the region for some time but we are stepping it up bigtime. We are putting a lot more intensity, a lot more urgency, a lot more ambition and aspiration to what we're doing. So with respect to that we are open for business, we are under new management."

He disputed the criticism.

"I disagree. I think what we're saying is that we're just stepping up the intensity with more ambition, we know we've got fantastic businesses that have been doing a great job, we know we've got a great foundation in the region, we are bringing new intensity and new urgency to it.

"I talk to the business delegation all the time, I know many of them very very well. But what I was just saying to you, I wouldn't construe those comments in that way.

"We're building on what's come from before but we're also having a big ambition, we want to double our exports again in the next 10 years.

"That's hard work, it's really tough work, it's really difficult to do, it doesn't just happen by autopilot automatically, it needs political leadership, it needs business leadership."

Former Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern on her first trip overseas since the borders closed during the Covid-19 response used much the same language.

Luxon was speaking to reporters in Manila after pledging greater defence cooperation with the Philippines.

His second day in the city and the final day of his tour of Southeast Asia featured a business-heavy programme with a series of functions in the city, following a more politically focused agenda, meeting with President Ferdinand "Bongbong" Romualdez Marcos Jr, the previous day.

Luxon said he thought the whole delegation was leaving feeling "fairly energised".

"I've been part of trade missions in the past, obviously in a different capacity, so it's been good to take a high-quality trade delegation and business delegation with us. People from small businesses ... to large, to public, to private, to lots of different sectors, and it's been fantastic.

"It's been a fantastic five days ... It's been huge focus and huge energy, but I mean, you come away hugely excited and energised about the future for New Zealand.

"It's just exciting to see growth, you know, there's nothing more energising than that."

He told reporters he had not raised human rights concerns with President Marcos.

"No, but we discussed a lot of concerns around the region in particular, we talked a lot about people-to-people links and we talked a lot about economic challenges here. I just say I think under President Marcos it's quite obvious that he's got a huge respect for the international rule of law and he's, I think, making positive steps."

The week-long trip was aimed at boosting trade and tourism from Southeast Asia, with other stops in Singapore and Thailand.

Luxon returns to New Zealand on Sunday morning.

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