“What we are promoting with ‘Buy Samoa Made’ is that it’s a win-win situation. The more we export to New Zealand, the more we buy from New Zealand.” Asia-Pacific Journalism reports on a new Samoan strategy.
Special Report – By Elesha Edmonds
A trade exhibition, permanently displaying Samoan-made products, has been unveiled in Auckland with hopes it will increase Samoa’s trading presence in New Zealand. Samoa’s Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Trade, Fonotoe Pierre Lauofo, officially launched the “Buy Samoa Made” exhibition at Samoa House in Auckland.
More than 60 people attended the unveiling of the exhibition which will permanently showcase Samoan products, including wine, jewellery, chocolate and coconut-based creams.
“This is crucial, not only because Samoan producers and exporters are now internationally certified to meet the requirements of the export markets, but it also has the effect of raising consumer confidence in Samoan-made goods,” he said.
Samoa has experienced a decline in exports over the past 10 years – an issue which has made the country’s exporters eager to increase their trading presence in New Zealand markets.
Samoa’s recent Quarterly Economic Review, released by the Ministry of Finance, revealed the country’s trade deficit had increased by 12.6 percent. This translated to a loss of S$182.7 million (NZ$93.4 million), up to December of the 2013/2014 financial year.
‘Buy Samoa Made’
This trade deficit motivated the Samoa Association of Manufacturers and Exporters (SAME) to develop the “Buy Samoa Made” exhibition.
SAME president Tagaloa Eddie Wilson said the public awareness initiative aims at promoting the country’s non-perishable products, as well as bringing together retailers and distributors to increase export opportunities between New Zealand and Samoa.
“The exhibition centre is to create that public awareness of those goods and services that are now readily available for the New Zealand market,” he says.
“We’re a developing country and there is a need for us to increase investment and to have goods and services to export to New Zealand.”
The launch of the exhibition came after the success of SAME’s “Buy Samoa Made” New Zealand Trade Show, held at the Mangere Arts Centre last November.
“We’re having regular shipments since the trade show,” says Tagaloa. “Now the idea of this is to consolidate that and continue with the public awareness programme.”
The Samoan government has responded to the country’s financial shortfall by giving export promotion priority in its Strategy for the Development of Samoa (2012-2016).
The strategy noted that “Samoa’s export capacity, comprised mainly of agricultural-based products with minimal value added processing, has a downward trend over the past 10 years”.
It called for the “revitalisation of exports” and encouraged export promotion in order to enhance the country’s competitiveness and in turn reduce production costs.
Joe Fuavao, of New Zealand-based Pacific Islands Trade and Invest, says enhancing Samoa’s competitiveness in New Zealand is necessary for a country wishing to compete against neighbours eyeing up the same export market.
“The market is dynamic and Samoan exporters are entering a competitive market where consumer demands and expectations are high,” he says.
“There is a lot of learning to take from competing in the New Zealand market. Even in traditional markets, Samoan exporters are facing growing competition from large producers in Asia who benefit from economies of scale.”
However, Business NZ chief executive Phil O’Reilly says exporters will have to do more than just promotion to get into the New Zealand market.
“My sense is that a product which comes from Samoa is not positive or negative,” he said. “It won’t work all by itself or by putting a sticker on it.
“It depends on the type of product and whether where it comes from is important.”
O’Reilly says the challenge for Samoa will be working through barriers such as biosecurity and capacity constraints.
“They will be affected by the same kinds of barriers to entry as everyone else.”
These barriers were noted in the 2014 Pacific Export survey which was released at the Pacific Islands Forum Leaders’ meeting last month.
The survey – commissioned by Pacific Island’s Trade and Invest and the Department for Foreign Affairs and Trade – listed Samoa as the second-biggest exporting nation in the Pacific behind Fiji, which produces 25 percent of Pacific exports.
Samoa’s Auckland-based Trade Commissioner, Dr Lafitai Iupati Fuatai, says it will be difficult for Samoa to balance its exports and imports with competitors.
“We will always be behind in the critical mass we can export. So it’s going to be hard, but so long as New Zealand honours the treaty of friendship we have… that’s how we’ll work through these barriers.”
In order to maintain the countries’ relationship, SAME unveiled the new Samoa-New Zealand Business Council. The launch was timed to fit with the opening of the Auckland Trade Exhibition.
SAME president Tagaloa Eddie Wilson said the council was established with the aim to facilitate trade between the two countries.
“What we are trying to do now is work closely with our importers in New Zealand,” he said.
“This council is basically our eyes and ears in New Zealand to look at trying to promote ‘Buy Samoa Made,’ and also identify issues and look at how we can address them.”
Although there is a long way to go, Wilson says promoting exports is a great first step for the country to increase its trading presence in New Zealand.
“What we are promoting with ‘Buy Samoa Made’ is that it’s a win-win situation. The more we export to New Zealand, the more we buy from New Zealand.
“It’s a bit like the All Blacks and the Silver Ferns; you’ve got Samoans in there too.”
Elesha Edmonds is an Inclusive Journalism Initiative (IJI) programme student journalist at AUT University on the Asia-Pacific Journalism course.
Samoan Trade Expo video report from TVNZ’s Tagata Pasifika.