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Forging links with the ‘Startup Nation’

Peter Griffin, Editor. 14 September 2023, 9:08 am

A non-profit focused on boosting collaboration between Israel and New Zealand on tech and innovation is urging political parties to put the relationship on their foreign policy agenda.

Israel is widely considered to be the one of the most successful countries in the world at producing start-up companies, creating dozens of ‘unicorns’ - companies that attract a US$1 billion valuation.

Israel has also been incredibly successful at attracting investment dollars to its innovation sector, as well as multinationals who have set up R&D operations there. New Zealand has tapped Israel’s innovation experts over the years for advice in shaping our incubator and accelerator ecosystem and many trade delegations have travelled to Tel Aviv and Jerusalem to see the Startup Nation up close.

Now the NZ Israel Innovation Hub is calling on politicians to take the relationship further. It has urged political parties to consider:

• Ratifying the innovation agreement with Israel signed in 2020

• Opening a New Zealand Embassy and trade office in Tel Aviv

• Investigating the feasibility of a Free Trade Agreement with Israel

• Funding exchanges of culture and expertise

1665727493892.jpeg“With Israel’s transition from an agricultural economy to the ‘Startup Nation’ in the early 2000s, New Zealand can easily access and adapt an economic model to enable its own digital transformation,” says the Hub’s executive director, Josh Brown.

“Furthermore, partnering with Israel in areas such as agritech, cybersecurity, and health tech, can vastly benefit New Zealand's industries, businesses, and citizens alike.”

Passport scandal

While New Zealand has been proactive in fostering ties with other small advanced nations like Singapore and Ireland, the relationship with Israel hasn’t always been a smooth one. It hit a low point in 2004 when New Zealand imposed diplomatic sanctions against Israel after two Israeli citizens were accused of passport fraud.

New Zealand has also clashed with Israel over the building of Israeli settlements in occupied Palestinian territories.

But Brown, a co-director of anti-money laundering service provider AB AML and a former Treasury analyst, says the Abraham Accords have seen Israel forge healthy diplomatic relationships with neighbouring Arab countries, such as the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain.

“These relationships indicate that while New Zealand and Israel may share differences of opinion on geopolitical matters, a bilateral relationship with mutually beneficial benefits can side side-step political impasses and misgivings. Furthermore, our Arab trading partners’ historical caginess to New Zealand forming a warmer relationship with Israel may no longer be as vociferous,” says Brown.

Former National MP and Auckland Business Chamber CEO Simon Bridges will lead a trade delegation to Israel and UAE with the NZ Israel Innovation Hub in November.


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