Speech to the Norwegian Institute of International Relations

Speech to the Norwegian Institute of International Relations: Oslo, Norway (24 April 2019)

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Takk og Velkommen (Greetings)

For many of you living here in Norway it must seem New Zealand is a country at the very end of the earth.  Having made the flight here, we can confirm that you’re absolutely right!

While New Zealand is about as far from Norway as you can travel, this is just a geographic separation.  Despite distance we are close partners. We share a great number of similar values and experiences; but there is much potential for Norway and New Zealand to be closer partners still.

Sadly, the terrorist attack that took place in Christchurch recently means that we also share the experience of a horrific attack on our home soil.  It is no exaggeration to say that something of New Zealand’s innocence was lost that day.  We endured an utterly callous act of terrorism, perpetrated by a coward against people at prayer in their mosques. 

We know that Norway has suffered a similar, brutal act of terrorism, with the 22 July 2011 attack.  We are deeply grateful for the messages of sympathy, support and solidarity we received from Norway, including from His Majesty King Harald V and Prime Minister Erna Solberg. 

Following the attack in Christchurch, we are grateful that Norway also offered its very practical support, and to share the lessons learned following your own experience eight years ago.  We will visit the memorial today in Oslo and lay a wreath in remembrance of those lives that were lost. 

Friendships such as ours assume even greater significance in these difficult times.

Many have asked whether New Zealand’s foreign policy settings have shifted in the wake of the Christchurch attacks.  The answer is that while the act of terrorism disrupted our national life, for a time, New Zealand’s foreign policy continuity is not disturbed because its foundations are deeply rooted in our national values and experience.  The values that drive us remain strong:

  • Equality, tolerance and fairness;
  • Democracy – New Zealand is one of only nine countries with an uninterrupted sequence of democratic elections since 1854;
  • Freedom, from fear, and from want;
  • Human rights, as set out in the 1948 Universal Declaration;
  • Guardianship for our environment;

Our foreign policy has, and will always be driven by clear-eyed assessment of New Zealand interests and these bedrock New Zealand values.

But we recognise that achieving solutions that advance our interests and align with our values, depends on the ability to work with other countries.

The New Zealand Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, said in her first major foreign policy speech: “we speak up for what we believe in, stand up when our values are challenged, and work tirelessly to draw in partners with shared views.”

There are few places in the world that are as close to us in terms of values and how they see the world as Norway and your Nordic neighbours.

Domestically, we both enjoy high standards of governance, consistently taking out the top spots in international surveys reflecting transparency and the absence of corruption.

Norway and New Zealand lead the world in most global measures of equality, peacefulness, personal freedom and respect for human rights.

We also share a record of being trailblazers in terms of social justice.

You may know that New Zealand was the first country in the world where women achieved the vote – in 1893. 

Nordic countries have also been global leaders on gender empowerment.  Given the leadership Nordic nations have shown in providing for the poor and vulnerable in their societies, it may interest you to know that New Zealand created the first comprehensive welfare state in the 1930s.

Our countries have also applied this value-driven approach on the global stage, often in partnership with each other.

We share similar world views on global issues. These include trade, the environment, human rights, disarmament, peace and security – as evidenced by our close collaboration when New Zealand recently served on the UN Security Council – and adherence to the international rules based system.

We are instinctive and active multilateralists who are unafraid to stand up for what we believe in. Within the United Nations, Norway and New Zealand collaborate pragmatically and effectively within a small like-minded grouping of States, appropriately known as “the Mountains”.

New Zealand and Norway are both active contributors to international peace and security, including as mediators and regular contributors to peace operations.  We both have strong histories working as principled, independent and constructive partners in the Middle East.

In South Sudan, where Norway likewise has a deep and proud history of engagement in the pursuit of peace, New Zealand personnel for a number of years have also added real value to the UN peacekeeping mission. And a former Parliamentarian colleague, David Shearer, is doing a seriously important job as the head of that UN mission.

Given our close alignment of values and perspectives, it is only natural that we should do more together, both bilaterally and on the global stage.

To take this important work forward, New Zealand has strengthened our presence in the Nordic region. The re-opening of the New Zealand Embassy in Stockholm, with accreditations to Norway and our other Nordic friends, will allow us to engage more effectively and achieve more.

In times of global uncertainty New Zealand and Norway need to be working more closely together.

States like us have much to lose from global instability and the disregard of rules.

In times like these, when multilateralism is under threat, when our values of fairness, equality, and respect for human rights are being increasingly challenged, and when formerly open trading nations are increasingly turning to protectionism, we need to be prepared to fight for our values.

And we need to deepen our cooperation with friends who share these values.

We would like to highlight a number of areas where we need to cooperate more closely in asserting our values and tackling key issues on the global stage.

Foremost amongst these is the critical issue of climate change and environmental sustainability. 

Norway and New Zealand are countries whose histories and national identities are informed by our deep connection to the ocean and environment.  Climate change calls for global unified action and that’s why the New Zealand government has made climate change policy a priority.

Norway and New Zealand work closely together in climate change negotiations at the UN as well as through various coalitions, including the Carbon Neutrality Coalition and the Friends of Fossil Fuel Subsidy Reform. 

Both Norway and New Zealand have set ambitious targets in achieving carbon neutrality, and there is much to learn from each other as we work toward these, and encourage others to play their part. 

We are also natural partners on polar issues.  As original signatories, we work together in the Antarctic Treaty System to protect Antarctica’s pristine environment and manage the pressures of tourism. 

Norway made a significant contribution to the negotiations when a New Zealand and United States proposal to establish the world’s largest Marine Protected Area in the Ross Sea region in Antarctic got over the line in 2016.  It is critical that we continue to work together to see more of the proposed marine protected areas in Antarctica gain agreement.

New Zealand welcomes Norway’s focus on ocean issues, particularly as they relate to Pacific Small Island Developing States.  We share common interests in supporting these countries to realise the full potential of their blue economy in a sustainable way.

Our own region – the Pacific – matters deeply to New Zealand; our prosperity and security are intertwined.  We appreciate Norway’s interest in the Pacific, both in its role as a principled partner and as a potential champion for the Pacific, and other Small Island Developing States, within the multilateral system.

There is much we can do together in championing open, rules based trade, both in the WTO and bilaterally.  This is more important than ever, given the serious threat posed to the WTO.

At the same time, we want to promote trade policies which ensure trade benefits are shared among all members in our societies, and that support our broader social and environmental goals – for example, by imposing disciplines on harmful fossil fuel subsidies.

We are also reliable friends and partners to each other in our respective regions.

New Zealand values Norway’s knowledge of Europe, and the unique perspective it has as a European Union neighbour.

In turn New Zealand has much to share from its knowledge of East Asia and experience in the Pacific.

The Pacific may seem distant, but it is a strategically important and increasingly contested space. And it is a region that welcomes the positive and constructive contribution made by European partners.

But it is in our bilateral cooperation where the greatest potential lies.

Given our close alignment of values and perspectives, there is considerable scope for mutually beneficial cooperation and dialogue on domestic policy issues. 

New Zealand believes there is much we can learn from each other in areas such as social policy, climate change, and innovation. That is why we are here, to learn from Norway’s success in marrying economic policy with environmental stewardship.  

We especially admire your prudence in using your oil and gas wealth, with the ‘Government Pension Fund Global’ now valued at over $1 trillion, to shift from being a petro-state to an investor one.

We admire, too, Norway’s sustainable fisheries management regime.

New Zealand is therefore keen to learn from Norwegian successes as a way of furthering our national interests.    

And we are barely scratching the surface of the potential in our trade and investment relationships.

Two-way trade in goods and services between New Zealand and the Nordic countries amounted to USD$848 million for the year ending June 2018.  Services trade was slightly more, at around USD$660 million.

New Zealand imported NZ$139 million in goods from Norway in the year ending June 2018, up 80% on the previous year due largely to the New Zealand Defence Force’s purchase of a second-hand Norwegian hydrographic vessel. New Zealand’s goods exports to Norway for the same period totalled NZ$46 million. 

But this isn’t just about lifting trade volumes; it is about forging mutually beneficial partnerships, tapping into expertise, and drawing on our respective strengths.

Nordic countries are amongst the most innovative and technologically advanced countries in the world.  As a region, you represent one of the largest investors in industrial research and development.

We are enthusiastic partners with you in these endeavours.  Technology is New Zealand’s fastest-growing sector and our highest earning industry per capita.

New Zealand boasts one of the best business environments in the world, having been consistently ranked number one in the world for ease of doing business by the World Bank, as well as second in the annual prosperity index and third in the economic freedom index.

New Zealand is ranked second in the world for lack of public sector corruption by Transparency International.

New Zealand also offers opportunities in the fast-growing economies of the Asia-Pacific.

We were the first developed country in the world to sign a Free Trade Agreement with China in 2008 and the only country with trade agreements with China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan. The recently adopted Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement also provides access to eleven of the region’s most dynamic and prosperous economies.

It is of course the links between people that lie at the heart of any strong relationship. Despite our geographic distance, New Zealand and the Nordic countries are not strangers. Indeed travellers from the Nordic region were amongst the first Europeans to reach our shores.

Nordic whalers graced our shores in the early nineteenth century. Later that century, in the 1870s, a large cohort of Scandinavians immigrated to New Zealand, including 365 Norwegians, alongside Danes and Swedes. They established communities called Norsewood and Dannevirke that still thrive today.

The Premier of New Zealand at the time, Julius Vogel, ordered a study into how well the Scandinavians migrants had settled in New Zealand. Norwegians were rated the most successful of the Scandinavian migrant groups, which will come as no surprise to today’s audience.

There was another wave of Nordic migration after World War II, so while relatively small, our historic people to people links remain strong. Today, for instance, I have with me Jon Johansson, my Chief of Staff, whose father was one of those Danes who immigrated with his family as part of the post-War Scandinavian diaspora.

My Senior Private Secretary, Helen Lahtinen, is also here this afternoon. Helen is Swedish born of Finnish parents. My Chief Press Secretary’s family are of Norwegian origin. My office, therefore, embodies New-Zealand-Nordic relations about as well as is possible.   

Today, New Zealand continues to be a popular destination for Norwegians.  Nearly 5,000 Norwegians visited New Zealand in 2017. 

An uncapped working holiday scheme has also been in place since July 2005, enabling young Norwegian and New Zealand nationals to work for up to a year in our respective countries.  

In conclusion, we have a solid and warm foundation for our bi-lateral relations. We are here to build upon that foundation because as small democracies with so many shared values we can learn much from each other to the benefit of both Norwegian and New Zealand interests.

ENDS