German Chancellor Angela Merkel was welcomed like a rock star when she appeared before 300 invitation only guests in Auckland last Friday. Dr. Merkel’saddress at a cocktail event in her honour, which was hosted by the New Zealand German Business Association, was the last official part of her snap visit to New Zealand.
Bianca Mueller from LawDownUnder got a rare chanceto talk to the charismatic andpowerful leader. Chancellor Angela Merkelgave a brief address to business leaders who attended the function. Dr. Merkel praised New Zealand for its reliable legal framework.
Chancellor Merkel’strip Down Under- en route to the G20 summit in Brisbane – came just a month after New Zealand reclaimed a seat on the UN Security Council. Her visit provided a great opportunity to strengthen the bilateral trade between New Zealand and Germany. Germany is New Zealand’sbiggest European trading partner, and the two-way trade totalled about $14 billion in the year ending September. More than 30,000 Germans live in New Zealand and around 76,000 German tourists visit New Zealand each year.
Angela Merkel said that there is margin for improvement in the bilateral economic relationships between Germany and New Zealand. More importantly, Dr. Merkel said that she will support a free trade agreement between the European Union and New Zealand. “”I think we should also come out in favour of a free trade agreement between the EU and New Zealand. New Zealand has such agreements with China and other areas of the world. As a member of the European Union, Germany is very much championing, despite the great distance that separates us, to foster our trade relationships, to bring forward trade with the European Union.”
Angela Merkel said many German companies find it difficult to start a business in New Zealand because of the lack of skilled labour, especially in the building and engineering industries. Chancellor Merkel suggested training programmes like there are in Germany, and said for Germany and New Zealand to work together to solve the issue.
The German Chancellor’s visit also marked the beginning of a new research project between Auckland’s Bioengineering Institute and Germany’s Fraunhofer Institute in Stuttgart. The team of researchers will work on the development and commercialisation of a bionic joint. The research project will be co-funded by the New Zealand government.
Science and Innovation Minister Steven Joyce said that “Science is the jewel in the crown of the bilateral relationship between New Zealand and Germany, and research co-operation between NZ and Germany is underpinned by the Science and Technology Co-operation Agreement which was signed back in 1977”.