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Watch: Luxon says Japan is in a ‘tough neighbourhood’, defends C-listers comment

Jenée Tibshraeny and Claire Trevett,
Publish Date
Wed, 19 Jun 2024, 12:01pm

Watch: Luxon says Japan is in a ‘tough neighbourhood’, defends C-listers comment

Jenée Tibshraeny and Claire Trevett,
Publish Date
Wed, 19 Jun 2024, 12:01pm

Prime Minister Christopher Luxon will speak to media on the last day of his visit to Japan ahead of his formal meeting with Japan’s Prime Minister Fumio Kishida tonight.

Luxon will wrap up his trip to Japan tonight straight after that meeting with Kishida. Today he is also expected to deliver a speech about New Zealand’s strategic partnership with Japan.

Both Japan and New Zealand are weighing up what Pillar II of the Aukus defence agreement between Australia, the UK and US could look like, and how they may be involved.

New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) ships would be sent to North Asia for the first time and the frequency of aircraft deployments would be increased.

“This is a real uplift in the type of assets we are deploying to support this important mission, one that is vital for upholding the stability of the Indo-Pacific,” Luxon said.

Luxon is due to depart late tonight to return to New Zealand with his 30-strong business delegation on the Air Force Boeing 737, which had been repaired and arrived in Japan yesterday. It had broken down on a re-fuelling stop in Papua New Guinea on its way to Japan.

Both Luxon and Defence Minister Judith Collins have raised the prospect of bringing forward the date to replace the Boeings, saying they will be considered as part of the Defence Force’s capability review.

Luxon said successive governments needed a reliable aircraft to get around, but had shirked from replacing the planes because of the political risk.

“We are a country that needs to trade with the world and therefore we need to be able to use it as a tool of trade.”

Luxon yesterday also had to defend comments he had made prior to the trip, calling business people who went on trade trips under the previous Government, “C-listers” and “tag-alongs.”

Speaking to Newstalk ZB last Friday, Luxon had talked up the calibre of the delegates who would accompany him to Japan.

He then said, “A few [trade trips] that we did do in the last six years, compared to when I would go with [John] Key on a few of them, had just got very watered down; just sort of the C list really.

“This is why I want the A list being there. I want businesses that can do business in Japan; have interests in Japan; and [Japan] is a key part of their business strategy going forward… not just tag-alongs. So, everyone’s there for a reason.”

Asked by Newstalk ZB on whether this was a bit insulting, Luxon said, “I don’t mean to be critical, whatsoever.”

Nonetheless, he made similar comments to the Herald before the trip.

He said the problem in the past was that businesses “weren’t able to convert well enough”, or turn talk into dollars, during trade trips.

“We’ve got the right players that are going to build business in Japan, rather than just attending and coming along for the ride”, Luxon told the Herald on Friday.

Asked, on Tuesday afternoon, to explain his comments, he said, “What I was meaning is, this is a high-powered delegation.”

Put to him that representatives from many of the companies on the current trade trip (like Fonterra, Zespri and Christchurch Airport) accompanied former Prime Minister Dame Jacinda Ardern to Japan in 2022, Luxon said his comments had been taken out of context.

Luxon’s jam-packed schedule was aimed at upping New Zealand’s exports to Japan, attracting Japanese investment to New Zealand, and deepening New Zealand’s relationship with Japan geopolitically.

On Tuesday, Rocket Lab agreed to send 10 satellites into space for the Japanese company Synspective.

Meanwhile, Air New Zealand announced it would add 30,000 seats to its Tokyo route between November and March.

On Monday, New Zealand company Fabrum announced it would supply Toyota with liquid hydrogen storage technology.

Journalists received Government assistance for travel costs to Japan when the NZDF plane broke down in Papua New Guinea. 

Jenée Tibshraeny is the Herald’s Wellington business editor, based in the Parliamentary Press Gallery. She specialises in government and Reserve Bank policymaking, economics and banking. 

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