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New Zealand has significant economic and trading interests in the region and access to energy supplies and petrochemicals at affordable prices remains an essential concern. These interests give New Zealanders a direct stake in the stability of the region.
New Zealand ’s economic interests in the Middle East have been pursued at the political level through an active programme of high-level visits and the conclusion of a number of arrangements that establish mechanisms for dialogue, problem-solving and the promotion of trade and other economic exchanges. Improved air links have greatly enhanced the accessibility of New Zealand to the region and opened up extensive new opportunities for trade and economically important services like tourism. A visa-waiver agreement with the six member States of the Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf (GCC) also greatly facilitates New Zealand’s exposure in the region (the GCC’s six member states are Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, and Oman).
The Middle East is a valuable market for New Zealand products including wool, dairy products, meat, manufactured goods and services, while the region is an important source for New Zealand’s crude oil, polymers and fertilisers. In the year ending December 2005, New Zealand exports to the region totalled $1,186 million, while imports for the same period were $1,844 million.
Economic links have been broadened as countries in the region look for alternatives to the impediments that have arisen in their interaction with other traditional partners in the last five years. These changes are reflected in the substantial increase in the value of New Zealand’s exports to the Middle East, which has risen by 112% since 1990. Looking ahead, opportunities exist to broaden New Zealand’s engagement with Middle East economies in areas of mutual benefit, with trade and services – including education, ICT, specialised manufacturing and tourism – offering particular potential.
Advancing trade liberalisation and closer trade and economic ties, especially with the Gulf States and Egypt, remains a priority. New Zealand has commenced negotiations on a free trade agreement with the GCC, which is a significant step forward in New Zealand’s strategy of developing closer economic relations with the region, and will encourage ongoing growth in the value and diversity of New Zealand’s trading relationships with the GCC states.