Batting for Tonga Business

17/02/2015

This year marks the 5<sup>th</sup> Anniversary of the NZ Tonga Business Council and for Chairwoman Rachel Afeaki-Taumoepeau -- and there is plenty to celebrate.<!--more-->

[caption id="attachment_6900" align="alignleft" width="138"]<a href="https://pacifictradeinvest.com/PTI/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/rsz_rachel1.png"><img class="size-full wp-image-6900" alt="Rachel Afeaki-Taumoepeau" src="https://pacifictradeinvest.com/PTI/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/rsz_rachel1.png" width="138" height="104" /></a> Rachel Afeaki-Taumoepeau[/caption]

The council is a not-for-profit organisation formed in 2010, fortuitously in time for the Rugby World Cup 2011. Tonga’s team Ikale Tonga painted Auckland City red with supporters and New Zealand Tonga Business Council (NZTBC) were at the fore promoting Tonga’s national rugby team.

Today, Rachel and the NZTBC have continued to provide Tongan businesses in New Zealand and Tonga with a voice and a focal meeting point, says Rachel. “I believe there’s not another organisation set up in New Zealand that specializes in private sector economic development between Tonga and New Zealand,” she said.

The council makes connections between key players, private sector and Government, getting everyone on the same page and batting in their corner to raise the presence of Tonga as a viable island state to do business.  NZTBC’s facilitation role and ability is highlighted with several of projects under way.

NZTBC facilitated New Zealand’s National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA), the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC) and Tonga’s Government and fishing industries in a Deep Seas Fisheries programme.  The deal worth $2.7 million over two years was made in June 2014 to “develop a managed, sustainable line fishery for deep water fish in Tonga’s Exclusive Economic Zones.”  The council helped link NIWA to the New Zealand Aid Partnership Programme.

Tonga’s Tupuaga Coffee and Heilala Vanilla are two private sector companies that have grown with NZTBC help.  For SMEs (small to medium enterprises) such as Tupuaga Coffee, which sells 94 per cent of its product domestically, NZTBC enables them to access to engagements and conferences and expand its networks.  Tupuaga Coffee exports small quantities of coffee to New Zealand, Japan and Germany.

For the likes of Heilala Vanilla, a major vanilla producer and exporter, NZTBC provided facilitation to speak directly to the Government when it experienced commercial difficulties with a competitor.  As a result the issue was resolved.

Another company, Nishi Trading is now working with New Zealand’s Lincoln University on an agricultural and medical study for food production and education. The Liggins Institute also started working on an educational project in Tonga, Cook Islands and Samoa in association with the Ministry of Education in Tonga.

Strong working relationships with Tonga’s  government Ministry of Tourism, Labour and Commerce, Ministry of Finance and Planning and also Ministry of Internal Affairs. And NZ’s own Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Trade, NZ Trade and Enterprise and Pacific Island Trade &amp; Invest have been forged. NZTBC has an MOU with its sister organisations the Tonga Chamber of Commerce and Industries and the Tonga New Zealand Business Association, and a strong connection to the Tonga Prime Minister’s office, which has also expressed interest in working with NZTBC.

NZTBC also receives regular requests from the Visiting Overseas Officials office in Wellington for meetings with the business council.  The requests have come from UN officers, EU countries and Tonga. But equally the NZTBC can also ask questions of key players in Tonga and New Zealand.

PT&amp;I has been a major player as a founding member of the NZTBC and continues to provide market intelligence, facilitation and opportunities to connect not only to the Pacific region and wider but also to extend networks and engagements, says Rachel.

This year NZTBC plans to host its second Trade &amp; Investment Summit with an inward mission to Tonga in association with the New Zealand Government around August following the King Tupou VI Coronation coronation.  Following a study published last year identifying Tonga as a place where ‘ease of business’ is challenging – the council will look at areas of both Tonga and New Zealand’s regulatory environment to be more conducive to the starting and operating a local firm in Tonga.

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