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Research grant to examine NZ’s role in Southeast Asia

Wellington academic awarded Asia:NZ research grant to examine NZ’s role in Southeast Asia

How can a small country like New Zealand influence the economies of Southeast Asia and the 620 million people who live there?

Victoria University of Wellington political science lecturer John Leslie will tackle that topic over the next two years, after being chosen as the first recipient of a $40,000 research grant from the Asia New Zealand Foundation (Asia:NZ).

Dr Leslie will examine how New Zealand's closer economic agreements with Australia and Singapore can act as an example to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) as it builds its own regional economic integration.

The New Zealand-Australia Closer Economic Relations agreement, one of the world's most comprehensive economic and trade relationships, has been in force since 1983. New Zealand’s Closer Economic Partnership with Singapore started in 2001.

Dr Leslie plans to travel to Singapore and Australia next year, to interview policy-makers in those countries and find out how much perspective they share with their New Zealand counterparts. “Do they believe that three of the smaller countries and nation states in the Asia-Pacific can shape their environment?”

The ASEAN region is New Zealand’s fourth-largest export market, with two-way trade in goods worth about $11 billion in 2011.

Asia New Zealand Foundation research director Andrew Butcher said: “Dr Leslie’s research appealed to the selection committee of senior academics because of its focus on important areas to New Zealand that do not get the attention they deserve. These are Southeast Asia, and New Zealand’s role - with Australia – in economic integration in the region.”

The new research grant was designed to support and promote early-career academics with a research interest in Asia, Dr Butcher said.

Dr Leslie’s previous research has focused on European politics and economic integration. In recent years he has been studying Australia and New Zealand’s economic integration, and how it compares to the European Union.

He became interested in how the Australia-New Zealand relationship influenced the wider Asia-Pacific Region. “It was clear that this relationship between Australia and New Zealand wasn’t an end in itself… Australia and New Zealand look quite closely ASEAN and offer their experience to ASEAN.”

Asia:NZ is a non-profit, non-partisan organisation dedicated to building New Zealand’s links with Asia through a range of programmes, including business, culture, education, media, research and a Young Leaders Network.


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