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Staff Course on Foreign Affairs and Trade Address

Hon. Phil Goff

Address to No 43 Staff Course on Foreign Affairs and Trade

Thank you for the invitation to speak to you today. My comments will focus on New Zealand's foreign policy objectives and priorities, the current challenges of the post 11 September climate in the international arena and how New Zealand's defence policy fits into our response to these.

Foreign policy objectives and priorities

Foreign policy is all about how we project ourselves into the world and seek to influence the international environment in which New Zealand exists. For New Zealand, the basic national objectives are to protect and promote our national interests and values while ensuring that we play a positive role in world affairs.

New Zealand is a sovereign country with an independent view of international relations. To promote our political and economic security we work bilaterally with a wide range of countries, and through regional and multilateral organisations.

We retain close ties with countries with which we have traditionally had strong connections - Australia is our closest neighbour and most important economic and defence partner. Britain remains an important friend but increasingly we deal with it in the context of the European Union - 15 countries about to become 25 - with whom we have shared political values, and which collectively is our second largest trading partner.

The United States, the worlds only superpower, has the economic political and military strength which makes it a key power in every sphere. Our views diverge in a number of areas but we co operate closely in most.

The Pacific is our near neighbourhood. We have important constitutional, family and cultural links with it. It is the area of the world where we have greatest influence, and is also an area which suffers serious instability.

We have consolidated a closer engagement with Asia, especially our major trading partners in that region. The Asia-Pacific region is taking an increasingly dominant position in our trade, tourism, immigration and education links with other countries. We have put a lot of effort into our links with ASEAN, and worked hard at developing our key relationships with Japan, Korea and China.

We are also seeking to develop our economic, political and people to people ties with Latin America, an area where we have previously had only limited contact.

I want to focus for a moment on our near neighbourhood.

Australia has a similar history, culture, institutions and value to New Zealand. We have a sibling relationship with both the closeness and competitive rivalry, which that implies.

Since the 1970s and particularly since CER in 1982 it has become an increasingly important trading partner and our economies are now closely integrated. We have a close defence relationship and work together particularly closely in the Pacific.

The pacific also our close neighbour sadly belies it name and its tourist brochure image and has suffered increasingly from political conflict and instability. Population pressures, land disputes, ethnic tensions, failing economies, corruption and loss of good governance and the rule of law are common factors in Melanesia. The Solomon Islands, Papua New Guinea, Fiji and Vanuatu have all been affected by such instability.

The failures of governance in these areas has a direct impact on the well-being of the people of those states and on stability and prosperity in the region. We have a commitment to working to help resolve these problems through direct support and development assistance to the region.

New Zealand strongly supports regional processes and is an active participant in various regional security initiatives. These include, for example, the Pacific Forum and the ASEAN Regional Forum. Both these initiatives are important ingredients in maintaining a stable region.

New Zealand has been heavily involved in the region as part of the Peace Monitoring Team in the Solomons, peace-keeping in East Timor, and engagement with Fiji after the coup through the Pacific Forum and the Commonwealth.

On the world stage New Zealand's influence is limited by its size. We do not have the political, economic or military strength to pressure others to comply with our interests We can and do seek to persuade and influence through an active diplomatic effort. We have a strong belief in multilateralism, which allows small countries like New Zealand to have a say in regional and world affairs.

As a small nation we have a strong vested interest in the rule of law. We work actively to support organizations such as the UN, the WTO and the new International Criminal Court.

Internationally, we aim in economic terms to promote sustainable world economic growth and free and fair trade. New Zealand opposes tariff and other barriers to trade and subsidization of production particularly of agricultural products by the developed world.

We aim to protect and promote the world environment, addressing concerns such as global warming, pollution and unsustainable exploitation of resources such as fishing.

We are a liberal democracy, committed to democratic procedures, and we aim in practical ways to advance the promotion and protection of human rights, good governance, democracy and the rule of law.

We are committed to disarmament, conflict prevention and the peaceful and just resolution of international disputes.

Promoting the elimination of all weapons of mass destruction, especially nuclear, is essential to our future and the survival of the world. Our nuclear-free status is an important component of this. The threat of global nuclear war has diminished while the threat of local nuclear conflict has increased particularly in South Asia where there is an ongoing risk of war between two nuclear capable countries, India and Pakistan.

New Zealand plays a significant role in maintaining international peace and stability through our support for multilateral peacekeeping initiatives. As a small country, we are currently the 22nd largest contributor at peacekeeping forces in the UN, operating in 13 different countries.

We are not seen as a threat to any nation. We win respect by determining independently the position we adopt and respect for being a good international citizen. Kofi Annan offered us highest praise in describing New Zealand as "a model member of the United Nations".

Like much of the world, New Zealand no longer harbours the fears about threats to its sovereignty which it had during the Cold War and the great international conflicts of the 20th century.

Since the end of the Cold War however new security threats have emerged. Regional conflicts and conflicts in many other regions are increasingly associated with religious or ethnic struggles. Weak state structures are easily exploited. The threats to security may be posed by relatively small groups, sometimes with state sponsorship, but generally through non-state actors.

There are transnational issues such as drugs, arms trafficking, money-laundering, people smuggling, which have gained prominence as elements of the support structure for transnational criminal activity and terrorism.

Of all potential security threats to New Zealand, since 11 September that of terrorism has been predominant. The perpetrators of the 11 September attacks on the US achieved a new benchmark in terrorism and took the threat to new levels, including a readiness to use weapons of mass destruction should they gain access to them.

The attack brought about a strong response to eliminate groups such as al Qaeda in an unprecedented coalition of nations, promoted and spearheaded by the US, but involving Russia, China, Pakistan and the Islamic world, as well as western nations.

New Zealand's commitment to this has been whole-hearted. We are directly involved in Afghanistan in military, peacekeeping and development assistance capacities. We have acted upon Security Council resolutions to tighten legislative measures against funding, harbouring or otherwise assisting terrorist groups. We have also contributed through the sharing of intelligence.

Much more remains to be done and continued cooperation and commitment from the international community is needed to ensure peace, stability and the rule of law is restored to Afghanistan.

We must also be aware that actions to suppress terrorism must be accompanied by measures to tackle the root causes of terrorism.

Injustice, lack of opportunity, hopelessness, desperation and the failure of legitimate channels to redress grievances all give rise to terrorist actions.

The failure to resolve differences between Israeli and Palestinian people in the Middle East in particular continues to be a catalyst for recruitment into terrorism.

September 11 also highlights the urgency of making progress on disarmament, arms control and non-proliferation regimes to ensure that weapons of mass destruction do not fall into the hands of terrorists.

The transnational nature of the challenges brought about by the new post Cold War strategic environment make the multilateral system more relevant than ever before.

The UN has played a very important role in sanctioning and coordinating the global response to the terrorist attacks. After 11 September the Security Council worked hard to draft Resolution 1373 setting out standards by which nations must be judged in their efforts to eliminate terrorism.

Nowhere is the role of the UN more in focus than in the current looming international crisis over Iraq.

Iraq has repeatedly violated UN Security Council resolutions by excluding weapons inspectors. There is cause for concern at the prospect of Iraq developing and using weapons of mass destruction. The Security Council must demand the unconditional return of weapons inspectors.

We welcome the US decision to work through the UN to bring Iraq to account. Force is the ultimate sanction but a decision to invade Iraq has potentially enormous consequences and should only be considered as a last resort.

We think that the multilateral process should be allowed a chance to work through an approach agreed by the Security Council. This that is why we have offered to make available 10 NZDF personnel to support UNMOVIC in its mission to ensure that Iraq does not develop its weapons of mass destruction capacity.

The relationship between New Zealand's Foreign and Defence Policies

I would like now to turn to the relationship between New Zealand's foreign and defence policies.

New Zealand's defence policies work in tandem with our foreign policy objectives. Our defence objectives are set out in the Defence Policy Framework established in 2001. They are:

  • defending New Zealand and protecting our people, land, territorial waters, Exclusive Economic Zone, natural resources and critical infrastructure

  • meeting our alliance commitments to Australia by maintaining a close defence partnership in pursuit of common maintenance of security in the South Pacific, and providing assistance to our Pacific neighbours

  • playing an appropriate role in the maintenance of security in the Asia-Pacific region including meeting our obligations as a member of the Five Power Defence Agreement

  • contributing to global security and peacekeeping through participation in the full range of UN and other multilateral peace support and humanitarian relief operations.

The common elements between foreign and defence policy are clear: the protection of New Zealand's territorial integrity; the maintenance of bilateral and regional relationships; a commitment to multilateralism and the promotion of world peace and development with a focus on our own region.

It is necessary to have a credible defence policy capability to underpin an effective foreign policy.

Peacekeeping is one of the defence force's more visible and important roles today. It gives practical expression to our commitment to multilateralism.

New Zealand has played a key role since 1999 in returning peace and stability to East Timor which will finally come to an end in November. While peacekeeping is an important focus of our activities, we believe in the need to sustain military forces as combat ready, and to commit those forces where that is necessary to ensuring peace and security, such as in the campaign against terrorism in Afghanistan.

This activity is complemented in the foreign policy sphere by our humanitarian assistance through NZAID in Afghanistan and the action we have taken to ensure we comply with UN Security Council resolutions on countering terrorism.

Our defence forces' multiple roles are perhaps most clearly demonstrated in our relations with our South Pacific neighbours.

The army camp at Burnham in the South Island provided the venue for negotiations and eventual accord between the warring factions in Bougainville and our defence force forms part of the peace-monitoring group on the island.

Our defence force has for many years made an active contribution through its Mutual Assistance Programme to the development of South Pacific countries. Increasingly MAP assistance is being harmonised with NZAID's programme, for example, building police posts in the Solomon Islands as part of a capacity improvement programme in law and justice.

Disaster relief in the South Pacific is another area in which our defence force plays a prominent role.

Looking after New Zealanders in difficulty overseas is a key role of our diplomatic and consular missions. The defence force has assisted them with the evacuation of New Zealanders from trouble spots, and brought back to New Zealand people in critical need of medical treatment.

The intersection of our defence and foreign policies is also clearly demonstrated in our relations with Australia and Southeast Asia.

Defence is a key strand of our relationship with Australia. Closer Defence Relations are a cornerstone of the relationship and build on a long established closeness between the two countries.

In Southeast Asia, New Zealand's participation and the Five Power Defence Arrangements is a practical demonstration of a commitment to the peace and stability of that region.

In conclusion, I have run through the basic objectives and priorities which underlie New Zealand's foreign policy and looked at some key developments that have recently shaped our foreign policy.

As a small country, we have in many respects exercised an influence which is disproportionate to our size.

This reflects the quality both of our diplomatic efforts and of the professionalism of our defence force personnel.

Both have earned a level of international respect which have enhanced our ability to promote our interests and values.

Thank you for your contribution and the opportunity to discuss these issues with you today.

I look forward to your questions and comments.


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