20 Nov 2013

More understanding of Chinese needed - Joyce

10:27 am on 20 November 2013

New Zealand does not spend enough time understanding the Chinese people and their relationships, Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce says.

His comments came at the Federated Farmers' national council in Wellington on Tuesday, where he was asked whether the Government felt the country was putting too many of its eggs in the China basket.

"China is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for New Zealand, so let's go and get it. Let's make sure that we've absolutely worked that relationship as strongly as we can," Mr Joyce said.

"We've got a lot to do there. We think we're good (but) we're not actually that good. We're not actually that deeply engaged. We don't have many Mandarin speakers who are New Zealand-born citizens."

Nor did New Zealand spend enough time understanding the Chinese people and relationships, and most operators in China did not have the skills to manage the relationships, he said.

However, it was also important to look at other markets, such as Indonesia, and keep developing markets there.

Mr Joyce said he believed Indonesia would be important to New Zealand as it had 250 million people and middle-class incomes were growing.

A Rabobank report suggests Indonesia's rapid development could lead to it having 140 million middle class consumers with disposable income by 2020.

It said New Zealand's geographical proximity to Indonesia gave exporters a competitive advantage when it came to trade, with cheaper and faster freight, and labelled Indonesia true islands of opportunity.