No language barrier at Asean business forum

Local mainstream businesses looking for global growth will find the going a lot easier if they tap into ethnic communities within New Zealand, delegates at an Asean business forum in Auckland were told today.

The forum – hosted by the Office of Ethnic Affairs – was aimed at helping New Zealand exporters take advantage of the opportunities created by free trade agreements with Asean nations.

It follows a similar forum held last week that was designed to raise awareness of the possibilities from doing business with the Muslin business world.

Forum attendees were told today that with growing trade opportunities in the Asean nations, the best way to maximise returns lay within New Zealand's ethnic diversity.

Ethnic Affairs minister Pansy Wong said local language, cultural and market knowledge was vital for businesses that wanted to enter foreign markets.

“One of the reasons New Zealand firms fail offshore is a lack of experienced insiders in global markets. That is, New Zealand executives with little international experience leading offshore operations.”

While exports from New Zealand to Asean countries were poised to surpass those of Europe, the total amount of imports those nations received from New Zealand was just a third of a percent of their total imported goods.

Ms Wong said there was no set target at this early stage of the trade relationship, but that doubling it over the next few years by tapping into local expertise would be a “good start”.

Cultural barriers

She conceded there were still cultural differences that needed to be overcome, but business people focused on the bottom line would see past those differences.

Ms Wong said the language barrier was still an issue and while there were plenty of translation opportunities through government help and business peoples’ own friends and family, she pointed out that local businesses did not always see the real value of a professional translation service.

“Businesses should not always rely on family members or friends, they should try and invest a bit more in providing a translation service as it is so important to get the right message across.”

Today’s forum was opened by trade minister Tim Groser, who said that “massive progress” had been made in trade agreements with Asean nations over the past three decades.

He added that the moment trade to those countries exceeded that going to Europe would be an “iconic point” in New Zealand’s trade history.

Ms Wong said events like today’s forum were an important step in building networks between ethnic communities and while government departments such as New Zealand Trade and Enterprise and the Ministries of Foreign Affairs and Economic Development were there to help, the ball was firmly in the business world’s court.

“The government’s role is to listen to businesses and create an environment conductive for their growth, both onshore and offshore.”

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