News 3 Sep 2018
A commitment to promote trade and entrepreneurship between Tonga and New Zealand was formalised when the New Zealand Tonga Business Council (NZTBC) and Tonga’s Ministry of Commerce, Consumer, Trade, Innovation and Labour signed a Memorandum of Understanding at the residence of the New Zealand High Commissioner in Nuku’alofa on 29 August.
Sione Taufa, the NZTBC chairman, said the MOU would formalise working relations between Tonga and New Zealand “using trade as a vehicle to improve the lives of both the people in New Zealand and in Tonga.”
The NZTBC was established in 2010, but Sione said the need for the MOU was realised two years ago. He credited the initiative to Edgar Cocker, CEO of the Ministry of the Ministry of Commerce, Consumer, Trade, Innovation and Labour (MCCTIL) who “championed” the idea. He also credited Sefita Hao’uli, Rachael Afeaki Taumoepeau and Butch Richelmann, members of a sub committee who drafted the MOU.
Dr Tu’i Uata, the Minister for MCCTIL, who signed the MOU called it a ‘resetting of the button’. He reminded the gathering that Tonga’s annual imports from New Zealand have reached $150 million, but Tonga’s exports to New Zealand are worth only $10 million.
However, Tonga’s biggest export to New Zealand is Tongans, and there are about 60,000 Tongans in New Zealand.
The trade imbalance between the two countries is balanced out with remittances from Tongans and New Zealand aid to Tonga.
The issue to include Labour Mobility in a trade agreement between the two countries remain a controversial issue and is currently excluded from all trade talks between the two countries. A major concern is that it might cause an out-flow of skilledTongans overseas.
The New Zealand High Commissioner to Tonga HE Tiffany Babington said that there was a shift in the New Zealand approach to the Pacific, this time to build a deeper partnership, “applying principal of understanding, friendship, neutral benefits and connectivity and sustainability.”
She emphasised that the business mission from 29 August to 1 September would provide New Zealand businesses with the opportunity to learn about Tonga’s economic environment and investment opportunities, "as well as whatever is relevant with government and business contacts.”