Trade Mission pushes reset button for NZ-Tonga business

AUCKLAND,29 AUGUST 2018 (PACIFIC PERISCOPE) – The New Zealand Tonga Business Council (NZTBC) is undertaking its second business mission to Tonga in as many years.

NZTBC’s overarching theme for the four-day trade mission from 29 August – 1 September 2018 is “Building back better.”

Essentially, NZTBC’s Trade Mission is pushing the reset button for business after Cyclone Gita literally washed away years of progress in many sectors in local Tongan communities, villages, private sector and Government.

NZTBC Chairman Sione Taufa said, “While Tongans know all too well the devastation caused by cyclones and natural hazards, it does present an opportunity to adapt for future events whether it be better quality housing, cyclone resilient infrastructure, health responses, food and beverage stocks and the cycle of agricultural products during high risk periods. Some on the mission are there to form relationships and others to solidify existing ones.”

Seven NZTBC members will be part of the delegation.

Meanwhile, Pacific Trade Invest (PTI) New Zealand will host its Path to Market workshops in Tonga during the mission.  Last year it had hosted a workshop that led to several private sector businesses that participated to be part of the next stage of the Path to Market program – attending Auckland’s Pasifika Festival in March 2018.

An estimated 70 per cent of the population on the main island of Tongatapu was hit by category 4 Cyclone Gita, the biggest in Tonga’s history tearing through more than 1000 homes, buildings and wreaking havoc across the island.

International aid and support came in from relief agencies and governments and despite the strong resilience of the Tongan communities whose homes and businesses were impacted, recovery is still under way.

Over the years, the NZTBC has formed a strong working relationship with the Government of Tonga. NZTBC’s relationship will now be formalised through an MOU signed with the Ministry of Commerce, Consumer, Trade, Industry & Labour (MCCTIL) Minister Tevita Tui Uata at a reception hosted by the New Zealand High Commission when the delegation arrives in Nuku’alofa.

“(The) MOU is about formalising the relationship and making sure there is close cooperation between Tonga and NZTBC,” Taufa said.

“The overarching theme is ‘Building back better’ but that is not limited to infrastructure. The main objective of the mission is to formalise the relationship with the Tongan government by signing the MoU. Seek new opportunities for investment and build on existing relationship formed in prior years,” Taufa said.

With Tonga’s building and economic reconstruction at the forefront, the delegation is arriving in the country at an important time.

NZTBC’s delegation is made up of a range of companies and organisations from steel manufacturing, building construction, freight forwarding, health, power, vanilla, weather and NGO representatives.

The program includes a session on Tonga’s Economic Environment and Opportunities and briefings from key Government officials from the Ministries of Tourism, Fisheries and Agriculture and Finance and Revenue.

But eyes will also be focused on the session by NZ High Commissioner to Tonga, Tiffany Babbington and Matt Howell of NZ Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (NZMFAT) who will discuss the Bilateral Relationship, Development Work and Pacific Reset.

Taufa said although they know of the big picture about the Pacific Reset, more details were needed. “However, there is opportunity for development capabilities that could come with Pacific Reset especially in getting Tonga ready for PACER Plus,” he said.

The delegation will make site visits to the solar farm at Tofoa and the Taufa’ahau Domestic Wharf.

Not-to-be-missed sessions will be on Friday morning the Breakfast Panel from private sector business owners on ‘NZ Businesses doing business in Tonga’ followed by a Private Sector Dialogue and Infrastructure for the construction companies – ‘Infrastructure and Development’.

PTI NZ will deliver a presentation on its Path to Market program.

In 2017, Tonga exported around NZ$3.5 million to New Zealand mainly in edible vegetables, roots and tubers whilst importing around NZ$69.4 million from New Zealand mostly in wood, dairy, machinery and meat products.

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