Our future with Asia

  • Winston Peters
Foreign Affairs

Speech at the launch of the White Paper on New Zealand’s relations with Asia,
Grand Hall, Parliament, Wellington, 3.30pm October 24

Ladies and gentlemen, Our Future with Asia is about New Zealand lifting its engagement with the region to the next level.

Asia matters a great deal to New Zealand. We have vital political, security, trade, economic, and other interests in the region, and those interests impact directly on our well being as a country. We have a real stake in seeing Asia flourish and prosper.

Over time, New Zealand has built strong relationships in the region. We have longstanding ties with traditional partners such as Japan and Korea, and those in Southeast Asia. These ties, like any relationship, benefit from being refreshed from time to time.

We are developing new linkages with the emerging powers of China and India, and Indonesia deserves renewed attention.

More than one-third of New Zealand’s diplomats and officials assigned overseas are based in Asia. There is now a diplomatic and consulate network of 14 posts in the region, including the recently established office in Guangzhou.

This presence demonstrates the growing range of shared interests with Asian countries. It raises awareness of New Zealand interests and what we have to offer, and ensures that we are attuned to, and play an active part in trends and developments in this vibrant region.

Not only are we strengthening our bilateral relationships, but also those relations with regional groupings. We want to participate in community building in this neighbourhood.

New Zealand was a founding member of APEC, and we continue to take an active role as it reinvigorates itself.

We were one of ASEAN’s earliest dialogue partners. As it is a key driver of Asia’s integration, we will be putting greater emphasis on the organisation itself, as well as associated processes such as the East Asia Summit and ASEAN Regional Forum.

New Zealand is also prepared to play its part in contributing to regional peace and stability, and we are already involved in a range of security issues, from Afghanistan to Timor-Leste.

Soon a visit to North Korea will take place. It is our long-held view that peace and security on the Korean Peninsula is fundamental to the political and economic stability of the wider Asian region.

The level of New Zealand’s development aid to Asia has increased significantly in recent years. Besides poverty alleviation and humanitarian assistance, we are engaged in capacity building, conflict prevention, and the promotion of human rights.

With a total population of 3.5 billion, Asia’s growing economic significance should be apparent to all. Japan, China and India already feature among the world’s 10 largest economies.

Asia has become home to 12 of New Zealand’s top 20 markets for goods exports. The region takes nearly 40 percent of our exports by value, totalling more than $11.7 billion for the June year.

Asia has also become increasingly important for our services, especially tourism and education.

It is critical that we continue developing the trade and economic relationships in order to expand New Zealand’s place in the competitive markets in the region.

Opportunities to travel, study and live in one another’s countries have expanded our links at a personal level. Such contacts are important.

The bonds created by these interactions – including by young New Zealanders who are looking first to Asia for their OE – make a special contribution to increasing our familiarity with one another.

As government Ministers, many of us undertake considerable travel to Asia to meet with our counterparts. If you include gatherings that take place at a regional level, then we have had the opportunity to meet our Asian colleagues several times a year. It all adds up to higher levels of trust and understanding.

Indeed, we should never underestimate the value of personal contact if we are to become truly engaged with Asia. Whatever the nature of that engagement – political, business, cultural – there is no better way of developing strong and close relationships than through face-to-face meetings.

Asia is a vast and diverse region. There are many challenges for New Zealand in dealing with this region but, as mentioned earlier, it is a region that matters a great deal to us, and any steps that we take to meet those challenges will be both worthwhile and rewarding.

New Zealand, like no other nation, is dependent on exports for our prosperity. We sit on the edge of the world’s fastest growing region, full of dynamic economies that look set to be major global powers for the rest of the 21st Century and beyond.

If we seize the opportunity to lift the breadth and the tempo of our engagement with Asia, and truly show ourselves to be a positive and committed member of the wider region, then our future can indeed be a bright one.