The Government will spend $53 million showcasing New Zealand at Expo 2020 in Dubai in an attempt to boost trade in the region and beyond.

Economic Development Minister Simon Bridges made the announcement in Dubai today.

"It's a unique and dynamic part of the world. For us this a relatively big play," Bridges told the Herald.

International Expos trace their origins back to the Great Exhibition in Crystal Palace, London in 1851. Countries show off their goods and services, usually in distinctive and elaborate pavilions designed to stand out from others.


When Dubai bid for Expo 2020, its rulers said they would spend more than $10b on a 2 sq km site that will contain three thematic areas: opportunity, sustainability and mobility.

New Zealand has been invited to participate in the sustainability precinct.

Bridges said the United Arab Emirates - which Dubai is a part of - had been one of the fastest growing markets of the past decade and the New Zealand display will be the first at an international Expo for 10 years.

New Zealand budgeted $30 million for the 2010 Expo in Shanghai.

While trade runs heavily in US favour, Bridges said the New Zealand pavilion would allow Kiwi businesses to highlight their innovative products and services and open doors to new export markets.

New Zealand is close to completing a free trade agreement with the Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC), which comprises Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

An agreement would be worth approximately $90 million a year on tariff savings alone.

Bridges said participation at the Expo was a carefully calculated strategic investment.


"Ultimately this is a pretty hard-headed investment for exporters and the economy. New Zealand being there is essential."

But ACT leader David Seymour said "surplus-drunk" National was wasting taxpayers' money.

"This is wasteful and unfair corporate welfare that will disproportionately benefit politically-connected businesses."

The Dubai organisers expect about 180 nations to participate and New Zealand is among the first 20 to formally confirm attendance.

New Zealand had signed up early as an exhibitor and Bridges said it would help its push "against the open door"of trade negotiations.

'We're increasingly good friends with the UAE at very senior levels, diplomatically, geopolitically and militarily," he said.

"It's a very complimentary relationship - they have some expertise we don't have but don't produce food and that's something we do best."

Dubai was a foremost hub in a region within eight hours' flight of two-thirds of the world's population.

Not only was the Middle East within reach, so was India, Africa, Central Asia and Europe.

New Zealand has strong air connections with Dubai through Emirates' four daily flights from Auckland and one daily service from Christchurch. Qatar Airways this February began daily flights from Auckland to Doha, across the Gulf from Dubai.

Trade Minister Todd McClay said the Expo would attract high-value visitors from all corners of the world.

"Expo 2020 is a vital opportunity to increase New Zealand's profile amongst new trading partners as well as grow our trade with existing partners," said McClay.

More than 60 New Zealand companies have established a base in the UAE, the majority of which are in Dubai.

The Government is about to launch a process within the creative sector of New Zealand to select the best team and ideas for the design and content.

New Zealand's Shanghai pavilion featured a rooftop garden, a 10m Waharoa (Maori gate), carved on site, and pou whenua (Maori carved pillars) fitted with interactive screens from which visitors were able to download information about New Zealand to their cellphones.

After entering the pavilion, visitors passed a two-tonne piece of pounamu.