Keynote Address to the United States Business Summit, Auckland
Good morning. Thank you, Rosemary, for your warm introduction, and to Fran and Simon for this opportunity to make some brief comments about New Zealand’s relationship with the United States.
This is also a chance to acknowledge my colleague, Minister for Trade Todd McClay, Ambassador Tom Udall, Secretary of Foreign Affairs and Trade Chris Seed, Air New Zealand Chair Dame Therese Walsh, and Dame Fran Wilde, Chair of the Asia Foundation.
Distinguished guests, there are few relationships that matter more to New Zealand, than our relationship with the United States. We share a special connection for we both retain democratic traditions that have stood firm despite the global upheavals they’ve faced.
Our institutions are founded on democratic values, respect for human rights, freedom of speech and assembly, and free and fair trade. Promoting and maintaining the rule of law is the defining feature of both of our political systems.
These strong foundations see our countries as two of only nine that have held continuous democratic elections since 1854. This achievement should never be forgotten, nor ever taken for granted.
It is too precious, because democracy is a fragile flower, and it needs constant nourishment and care to maintain the conditions for our societies to flourish.
Because of these common values and democratic traditions, it’s hardly surprising that our global interests so often correspond, and that we have repeatedly worked together in times of international crises and in the face of major global challenges. And we will continue to do so.
Ever since Thomas Jefferson, American eyes have gazed westward, something familiar to Ambassador Udall and his family’s journey west to the four corner states.
Further west lies the vast blue continent, and from the first American ships that visited here in the 1790s, to Allied efforts to liberate the Pacific in the 1940s, our enduring Pacific connections form deep points of connection between Wellington, Honolulu, and Washington DC.
When last Foreign Minister, in a speech hosted by Georgetown University, we urged the United States to renew its focus on the blue Pacific continent because of the development needs, the increasingly severe impacts of climate change, the intensified geostrategic competition in our region, and increasing threats to Pacific peoples’ peace and prosperity.
We were pleased to see that renewed focus begin under the last administration, and have welcomed the greatly enhanced focus and initiatives pursued by the current one.
For example, we’ve warmly welcomed the opening of new US Embassies in the region. Presence is critical to building enduring relationships in the Pacific.
We have joined the US-led Partners in the Blue Pacific Initiative which has been a catalyst for President Biden’s hosting Pacific leaders twice in Washington DC in recent years.
We’re delighted to see the return of the US Peace Corps and renewed attention from USAID in the region.
We acknowledge the significant lift in the contribution through the US Tuna Treaty.
And we have welcomed the increased US security commitment to the region.
The manner in which the US has engaged with our region has been instrumental in the Pacific’s success. The US’s meaningful and constructive engagement with Pacific regional bodies has helped reinforce and support the Pacific architecture upon which we rely.
But there is more to do and not a moment to lose. We will not achieve our shared ambitions if we allow time to drift. We need to raise the energy and intensity we bring to this important relationship, and that is what we intend to do.
As a small democracy with deep relationships across the region, and focused on regional security and prosperity, New Zealand has a crucial role to play in promoting shared values in our part of the world and in growing economic opportunity and performance.
We think there is more we can do together, and faster, including to advance shared interests and common values.
We seek to strengthen engagement with the US on strategic and security challenges, centred on our common interest in a stable, peaceful and prosperous Indo-Pacific. We can do this by,
- Being deliberate and attentive to New Zealand’s contribution to international and regional security challenges, working alongside the US and our many other partners.
- New Zealand pulling its weight, where we can have the most impact.
- Encouraging the continued step-up in US commitment and engagement in the Pacific, and advancing opportunities to work with Pacific countries.
- Seeking new opportunities to intensify and contribute to dialogue on strategic and security issues with the US.
Importantly, we also want to unlock the potential in our economic relationship and the value this brings to both countries by,
- Maximising the value, not just volume, of our bilateral trade.
- Fostering our business-to-business connections and redoubling our efforts to resolve barriers to trade between our countries.
- Working with the US to strengthen supply chains and build our resilience to shocks.
- Seizing opportunities for collaboration in areas and industries that are key to building a more prosperous and secure future, including critical technologies and space.
There is much work ahead of us, the time for drift is over, and the Coalition intends to hit the ground running.
We have the best possible foundation underpinning our shared values, commitments and ambitions in the Indo-Pacific region. We know moving with the speed and intensity required to meet current challenges is going to require all of us to step up. New Zealand stands ready to play its part.