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Leadership forum finds common ground in Asia

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Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

The 8th annual Australia New Zealand Leadership Forum was held in Sydney 12-13 April and concluded with both sides expressing a shared interest in building a future for Australia and New Zealand in the markets of Asia, underpinned by inward and outward investment and built on the basis of a strong trans-Tasman single market.

"This Forum was notable for the strong alignment of business interests on both sides of the Tasman," said Forum Co-Chair Jonathan Ling, Chief Executive of Fletcher Building.

"Both sides see our future in the dynamic markets of Asia. At issue in this Forum was how we could work to make this a reality. There was agreement that business needs to step up to articulate this vision more forcefully to domestic stakeholders, to develop new business models connecting with regional supply chains and to work with governments to promote both the development of Asia-relevant skills as well as a range of policy instruments which will foster greater economic integration in the region.

"Chief among these is the need to maintain an open and welcoming environment for foreign investment, including in agricultural land. Calls for a more restrictive environment for foreign investment can only hinder business development by making it harder to access capital and develop key relationships in Asia and beyond. The cost will be slower economic growth and fewer jobs."

The Forum was co-chaired by Jonathan Ling and Rod McGeoch AM on the Australian side. The Forum brought together around 100 government, business and community leaders from both countries. Meeting under the theme "Australia and New Zealand - together in the Indo-Pacific century", the Forum considered the broad strategic context for further expansion of the relationship in the lead up to the celebration of CER's 30th anniversary in 2013.

"Australia and New Zealand are well on the way to achieving a single economic market," said Forum Co-Chair Rod McGeoch AM, Chairman of Sky City Entertainment Group Ltd.

"The remaining steps require strong leadership. Business has a role to play in ensuring the remaining barriers are removed, including in relation to the movement of capital. Beyond this we see the need for a bold new step to take the relationship to a new level. The forthcoming report of the two Productivity Commissions, as mandated by the two Prime Ministers, will be critical in this regard. Businesses on both sides of the Tasman are resolved to participate the Productivity Commission process."

Business sessions at the Forum focused on investment, common border and Pacific development.

According to Rod McGeoch, "Key issues like the mutual recognition of imputation and franking credits, Australian departure taxes, and the prospect of public private partnerships in the Pacific were well articulated and supported by business representatives on both sides. Further work will now be done on these issues particularly in the context of the Productivity Commissions' report."

This year's Forum was notable for enhanced interaction with senior Australian business leaders and the inclusion of a dialogue with the Business Council of Australia both in a joint CEO session and at a dinner involving all Forum delegates and BCA members addressed by Deputy Prime Minister Bill English.

"Our growing interaction with BCA is very welcome," said BusinessNZ Chief Executive Phil O'Reilly.

"It provides an opportunity to align the business agenda in both countries and to encourage the two governments to learn from each other as they develop policies to enhance competitiveness and productivity. There was considerable interest expressed by BCA members in New Zealand's policy settings and the opportunities for investment in New Zealand."

Several ideas were also canvassed for the celebration of CER's 30th anniversary.

"There would be no better way to celebrate the anniversary than to complete the single economic agenda ahead of time. Next year's Forum will be the occasion to commit ourselves to the next chapter of the CER story. This will inevitably be one focused on the bigger picture of Asia and our shared willingness to do what is necessary to address this big new challenge," concluded Jonathan Ling.

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