Pacific could aim at niche US markets: AMCHAM head


Mike Hearn is the Executive Director of the American Chamber of Commerce (AMCHAM) in New Zealand.<!--more-->

[caption id="attachment_7276" align="alignleft" width="138"]<a href=""><img class="size-full wp-image-7276" src="" alt="Mike Hearn, AMCHAM Chairman." width="138" height="104" /></a> Mike Hearn, AMCHAM head.[/caption]

He has been at the helm for 16 years and acknowledges he is happy to go another five. It’s his passion for helping people that has kept him on, he says.

As an international banker for 26 years he was familiar with trade and investment and came to the role wanting something new. He was working voluntarily for Canada doing a similar role, when the AMCHAM position came up. He took up the job thinking he would be there five years.

He’s still there today.  “I’m enjoying it and I still have a passion for helping people.”

Essentially he’s a one man band, doing everything from answering inquiries, handing out information, organising events and missions and lobbying. His main focus is exports and imports into mainland USA. Annually he organises 40 events for 300-400 corporate companies in between lobbying Washington and Wellington on behalf of AMCHAM members. He has been strong on getting the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement over the line and hoping New Zealand will be signed up by August.

AMCHAM is a voluntary organisation. Mr Hearn, who mostly works from home, has recently been busy following up on the guest list for 500 people attending the 50<sup>th</sup> Anniversary of American Chamber of Commerce in New Zealand. The guest list includes the United States Ambassador and New Zealand Prime Minister John Key, former US Ambassadors, past New Zealand Prime Ministers and current MPs.

Speaking of trade between our region and the US, the latter is a tough market, he says. Although there are plenty of opportunities once a company breaks into the market, it’s a highly competitive place. For Pacific Island countries it could mean focusing on niche products and markets. Although American Samoa and Hawaii have unofficial AMCHAM organisations with potential stepping stones into America, exports there would be on a relatively small scale.

The AMCHAM membership is a complete mixture of diverse businesses either exporting or importing from the USA. In the past two years, membership has grown by 20 per cent in mostly tech and food companies, says Mr Hearn. But New Zealanders tend to do phenomenally well in the US he says.

He was invited on to the Mayoral Trade Mission to the US earlier this year along with 40 New Zealand companies. The mission marked the start of a three-year business relationship between Auckland and her sister cities Guangzhou and Los Angeles. The outcomes exceeded expectations with multi-million dollar deals transacted with leaders keen to see this tripartite arrangement continue.

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