February 26, 2014

ON HEELS OF HONOLULU CONSULATE ANNOUNCEMENT, HIRONO INTRODUCES BIPARTISAN NEW ZEALAND VISA BILL TO SPUR ECONOMIC GROWTH, JOB CREATION

Legislation Supported By Chamber Of Commerce Hawaii, Hawaiian Airlines, Hawaii Tourism Authority, United States | New Zealand Council

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Senators Mazie K. Hirono (D-HI) and Mike Lee (R-UT) introduced the bipartisan Encouraging Trade and Investment from New Zealand Act, legislation to extend eligibility for trade (E-1) and investor (E-2) temporary entry visas to New Zealand, to promote trade and investment in the United States. The bill is also supported by original cosponsors Senators John McCain (R-AZ), Marco Rubio (R-FL), Charles Schumer (D-NY) and Patty Murray (D-WA). U.S. citizens are already eligible for similar visas in New Zealand. The bill’s introduction comes on the same day as an announcement by Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully that New Zealand will open a Consulate General at Bishop Square-Pauahi Tower in Honolulu to strengthen ties with northern Pacific nations.

An E-1 trade visa allows for visiting, foreign nationals to come to the United States in order to engage in trade activities such as international banking, technology development or tourism. An E-2 investor visa allows visiting, foreign nationals to develop and direct the operations of an enterprise in which they have invested a substantial amount of capital. The applications for these visas are closely scrutinized by the U.S. Department of State to ensure the trade business or investment is substantial and real, not speculative.

“New Zealand is one of our nation’s important economic partners, with total foreign direct investment from New Zealand to the United States valued at $6 billion in 2011 and New Zealand-owned firms supporting 10,900 jobs,” said Senator Hirono. “Hawaii has seen this firsthand, with businesses such as Hawaiian Airlines, the only North American airline in New Zealand, helping to spur a substantial increase in business and tourism from New Zealand to Hawaii in recent years. At the same time, New Zealand businesses have found that the lack of access to E-1 and E-2 visas has hampered their ability to increase trade and investment in the United States. By extending trade and investment visas, the Encouraging Trade and Investment from New Zealand Act not only directly promotes economic growth and job creation in Hawaii and across the United States, but also bolsters the bilateral relationship between our nations and strengthens Hawaii’s economic ties to the Asia-Pacific region.”

“The Chamber of Commerce Hawaii supports legislation that would extend E-1 and E-2 temporary entry visas to New Zealand to promote trade and investment in the United States,” said Chamber of Commerce Hawaii President and CEO Sherry Menor-McNamara. “This legislation would increase investment and trade with New Zealand, creating a significant number of jobs in our country for our citizens and families. As importantly, this legislation would help pave the way for businesses in Hawaii, large and small, to compete in the global marketplace and strengthen our state’s economic ties and leverage our advantageous location to the Asia Pacific region.”

“Hawaiian Airlines is extremely supportive of any initiative that promotes trade and investment between the United States and New Zealand, and the Hirono-Lee bill would further strengthen the bilateral relationship between our two countries. Hawaiian Airlines entry into New Zealand in 2013 has helped to foster trade between our two countries by connecting Honolulu and 11 mainland U.S. gateways with Auckland, providing improved accessibility for New Zealand and U.S. business travelers,” said Hawaiian Airlines President and CEO Mark Dunkerley.

“We support this legislation that would extend trade and investor visas to New Zealand, as it is in line with our efforts to diversify Hawai‘i’s tourism profile in one of our major market areas,” said Mike McCartney, president and CEO of the Hawaii Tourism Authority. “New Zealand is a vastly growing market for Hawai‘i’s visitor industry, welcoming a record 47,280 visitors in 2013. This legislation would be beneficial to Hawai‘i’s tourism economy by generating further interest in the Hawaiian Islands as both a visitor destination and a place to conduct business.”

“On behalf of the New Zealand Government, I would like to express our gratitude to Senators Hirono and Lee for sponsoring this important piece of legislation which will assist New Zealand businesses to trade with and invest in the United States,” said New Zealand Ambassador to the United States Mike Moore. “I would also like to thank Senators McCain, Rubio, Schumer and Murray for co-sponsoring this bill. This bill is a very positive development for both the US and New Zealand. In 2010 alone, United States subsidiaries of New Zealand-owned firms were responsible for 10,900 American jobs and contributed $560 million to US export earnings, according to the US Bureau of Economic Analysis. But New Zealand businesses have told us they want to do more. These visas will help them grow in the US market and create US jobs. The US is also an important strategic partner for New Zealand and is seeking to increase its engagement in the Asia-Pacific region. Improved access to the US for New Zealand businesspeople and investors will continue to strengthen and modernise our bilateral relationship. We hope that Congress will recognise the benefits of this bill to both New Zealand and the US, and move to pass this legislation as quickly as possible.”

“Americans and New Zealanders collaborate closely in business, technology, research, security and entertainment, yet the lack of access to trader and investor visas has been a serious impediment to increased economic growth and greater bilateral cooperation,” said United States | New Zealand Council President William Maroni. “The E-1 and E-2 visa categories were created expressly to benefit the U.S. economy by promoting capital infusion and job creation. The United States currently allows temporary entry for traders from more than 50 countries (under E-1 visas) and for investors from more than 80 countries (under E-2 visas). New Zealand – an important partner, supporter and friend to the United States and an influential thought leader throughout the world – should be offered the same eligibility. It’s in our shared best interests and it’s long overdue. Extending E-1 and E-2 visas to New Zealanders would significantly increase bilateral business activity, encourage greater investment and economic growth in the United States, create more American jobs and related benefits, and strengthen US-NZ bilateral relationship.”