Bilateral trade with New Zealand intact

Earthquake causes no damage to Israeli companies, Honorary Consul to Israel Gad Propper says.

February 23, 2011 23:38
1 minute read.

GAD PROPPER 58. (photo credit: Courtesy)


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Israel’s bilateral trade with New Zealand is expected to escape unaffected from Tuesday’s devastating earthquake in Christchurch, despite preliminary reports that the damage bill could reach several billion dollars.

The 6.3-magnitude earthquake hit New Zealand’s second- largest city Tuesday afternoon, killing at least 75 people. Local news agencies reported that the damage could be worth up to NZ$16 billion (US$12b.), making it the second-costliest earthquake in history after the one that hit Los Angeles in 1994.

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However, New Zealand Prime Minister John Key was quoted by local media as saying the government could absorb the costs, while credit rating agency Moody’s Investors Service said the country’s AAA credit rating would remain unchanged.

New Zealand’s Honorary Consul to Israel Gad Propper told The Jerusalem Post Wednesday that as far as he was aware, no Israeli companies had been affected by the tragedy. Bilateral trade had been largely protected by its minimal scope and by being concentrated in a few niche areas, he said.

Trade between the two countries totals about $120 million annually, of which some $100m. comes from Israeli exports, mainly in the fields of technology and telecommunications.

Of those, geothermal power company Ormat Technologies provides the most significant presence in New Zealand, operating several power stations on the country’s North Island. Those facilities were far enough from the quake’s epicenter to escape damage, an Ormat representative told the Post.

Tourism is the other big area of exchange between the two countries. Propper said about 10,000 Israelis, mainly backpackers, travel to New Zealand each year.

“In the last few years there has also been the emergence of what I call business-class tourists, which is people in an income bracket that allows them to travel for long periods of time,” he said.

Propper said two separate groups of Israeli volunteers had contacted his office to inquire about joining rescue efforts in Christchurch, where several hundred more people were still reported missing.

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman both offered assistance to their New Zealand counterparts by telephone following the earthquake, but they were told it wouldn’t be required.

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