Gordon Campbell | Parliament TV | Parliament Today | Video | Questions Of the Day | Search


Peters: "Foreign Policy: The Next Five Years"

Rt Hon Winston Peters - Minister of Foreign Affairs

21 February 2006

An address to the New Zealand Institute of International Affairs, Tuesday 21st February 2006 at 10.00am, Rutherford House, Victoria University, Wellington

"Foreign Policy: The Next Five Years"

We are here to consider New Zealand's foreign policy priorities over the next five years.

Well, they say a week is a long time in politics.

All of us here are aware that a week, let alone five years, can be a long time in foreign policy.

It is worth making some observations at the outset about New Zealand foreign policy in a political context.

The first is that, historically, the broad direction of foreign policy has received bi-partisan support. In our recent past almost all foreign affairs legislation presented to parliament has received near unanimous support.

Even with the advent of MMP and a multi-party parliament there has been a continuation of this general consensus.

The second observation is that the people of New Zealand also have generally supported the main thrust of foreign policy, under successive governments.

Indeed it would be fair to say that inherent New Zealand values and unique New Zealand perspectives have been reflected in the formulation and conduct of our foreign policy.

And over the years New Zealanders have taken pride in the way we have been active in world affairs in a way that belies our geographical isolation and relatively small size.

The Institute's Director, Brian Lynch, waited for all of two days after my appointment before extending an invitation to speak at this seminar.

The invitation was accepted without hesitation.

By February an intensive programme of travel in the last two months of 2005 would have been completed – to APEC, to the Commonwealth Foreign Ministers meeting in Malta, to the United Kingdom for a bilateral visit and EU Presidency consultations, and to Kuala Lumpur for the Foreign Ministers meeting ahead of the inaugural East Asia Summit.

And a visit to Fiji would have just taken place - the first in a series of visits to Pacific island countries, which is an explicit priority in my travel programme for the first half of 2006.

The Next Five Years

So - priorities over the next five years.

To begin with, the observation that foreign policy is often about responding to international developments that are unforeseen (certainly in their specifics), and over which we have little control.

The terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001 and the Asian tsunami are examples of major events that both required a multi-faceted policy response, and changed the environment in which we operated.

This speech is not about gazing into a crystal ball. History is full of examples of predictions of future developments in world affairs that turned out to be wide of the mark.

Neville Chamberlain's "peace in our time" comes immediately to mind. But his successor as Prime Minister of Great Britain, my namesake, could also get it wrong.

Only a few years before the "peace in our time" forecast Winston Churchill had said that "No conceivable quarrel could arise between us and Japan".

But with reasonable confidence we can highlight in 2006 a number of over-arching trends that are likely to continue.

These include the inter-linked phenomena that are known as 'globalisation', (and, related to this, the dynamism of the Asia-Pacific region), the persistence of international security and development challenges, and uncertain progress towards making multilateral institutions more effective.

Globalisation is one of those buzzwords that has become so widely used it is in danger of losing its usefulness. However, we have yet to come up with a better word.

Beyond doubt the rapid development of information and communications technology, and the global expansion of economic activity and linkages has had both positive and negative effects.

For New Zealand globalisation has had a demonstrable effect on our economy, our standard of living, and the make up of our society.

There is also the well-documented downside to globalisation. In our own neighbourhood Pacific Island countries have had to contend with social pressures resulting from much more contact with the outside world, and are challenged by issues of scale and distance.

These are real constraints in an inter-linked and increasingly competitive world.

The East Asian region has benefited from globalisation and experienced a sustained period of rapid economic expansion, with only occasional set-backs.

The dynamism of Asia is evident not just in economic terms. We have witnessed the emergence of a region that is increasingly confident and outward looking.

The stakes for New Zealand, as it has sought to deepen its political and economic engagement with Asia, have been high.

While we may be geographically distant from the centres of the worst conflict and human suffering, New Zealand has little choice but to play its part in responding to pressing security and development challenges in other parts of the world.

Over time the nature of these challenges has changed dramatically. It was not too long ago that we witnessed the dramatic consequences (again, both positive and negative) of the end of the phase of super-power rivalry known as the Cold War.

Today we confront the reality that terrorism and the threat posed by proliferation of weapons of mass destruction require concerted international responses.

We have seen and are likely to continue to see proliferation of what have been described as 'problems without passports'.

Accordingly the need for effective multilateral institutions is as great as ever.

But the United Nations was founded in 1945, and the world has changed considerably since then. Changes in the way the UN system operates have not always kept pace.

The simple fact is that we see today arrangements inherited from the past that struggle to deal with an increasing range of global challenges such as pressure on natural resources and the environment, infectious diseases (including possible pandemics), and natural disasters, to mention only a few.

If the international community fails to make the multilateral system work more effectively the result will be inadequate responses to serious security and development challenges that threaten New Zealand interests directly, and indirectly.

Policy Responses

In this environment New Zealand's foreign policy machinery needs to monitor developments, discern trends, identify threats and opportunities, and devise appropriate policy responses.

The response to the economic challenges related to globalisation will be described by Phil Goff in his address tomorrow morning.

But one observation for today: our success in taking advantage of the benefits of globalisation and minimising the negative impact will continue to be a major determining factor in whether or not New Zealand's economic performance is lifted onto a higher level.

And having a well-performing domestic economy will mean we can generate the resources we need to sustain effective foreign policy initiatives and interventions, to protect and advance the interests of New Zealanders, and to make a worthwhile contribution to making the rest of the world more secure.

Over the next five years our foreign policy engagement will continue take place in three areas – our bilateral relationships, regional diplomacy, and in the multilateral arena.

It would be unwise to prioritise one area over the others.

On many issues satisfactory outcomes will depend on properly coordinated engagement in all three areas.

To give just one example: it is extremely important for New Zealand and the rest of the world that the current situation of reasonably stable relations between the major powers should continue.

This however cannot not be taken for granted, and will require careful management by the major powers themselves.

Achievement of stable major power relations will also be assisted by other members of the international community managing in a responsible and constructive manner their bilateral relations with the major powers, promoting regional cooperation to deal with issues of common concern, and undertaking repair work on the post-World War Two system of collective security enshrined in the Charter of the United Nations.

Bilateral Relationships

Over the next five years it will be vitally important that we work to enhance our relationships with the countries that impact to the greatest extent on New Zealand's direct interests, our regional environment, and the global order.

Our key relationships include those with Australia, the United States, Pacific island countries, Japan, China and Europe, other APEC members and those involved in the East Asia Summit.

New Zealand's relationship with Australia is unique, and will remain a cornerstone of our foreign policy.

There will be a further consideration of common interests and the scope for even closer collaboration between us when Alexander Downer visits Wellington later this week.

Notwithstanding the disparity in size and influence in world affairs there is potential for deriving greater mutual benefit from our relationship with the United States.

This will happen from recognition of interests we have in common, and willingness to support each other on key issues where we can. This was evident in my conversation at APEC with US Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill.

As a former US Ambassador in Seoul, now responsible for East Asian and Pacific affairs, Chris Hill knows very well that New Zealand's position on North Korea, our contributions to the campaign against international terrorism, and our commitment to addressing security issues in the Pacific region all serve to support the attainment of US objectives.

New Zealand has an important stake in progress being made in addressing the challenges facing Pacific island countries. Our relationships in the Pacific are a special priority for the government, and for me personally.

As mentioned earlier this has been reflected in my planned programme of overseas travel this year, which includes visits to half of the sixteen members of the Pacific Islands Forum by mid-year.

Japan plays an increasingly important role in world affairs and particularly in the Asia-Pacific region. Our approaches on priority international and regional issues are remarkably similar, and we are committed to this long-standing and close relationship.

With China there has been a remarkable evolution in the relationship in recent years. We will continue to make every effort to expand what is increasingly becoming a broad-based relationship, and to explore new areas of cooperation.

Our interests in Europe also are expanding and diversifying. We are responding by strengthening our relations with the European Union and its institutions, and maintaining and taking forward relationships with key bilateral partners in Europe.

As resources permit we will put effort into strengthening our bilateral relations with other countries as well, for example in Latin America (where we are implementing a long-term strategy to strengthen relations), the Middle East (our new Embassy in Cairo will open later this year), and Africa. Our Commonwealth connections will always be valuable.

Every relationship that has the potential to be positive is important to us.

Sustained bilateral engagement will continue to be required, both to maximise benefits to New Zealand and reduce risk.

Regional Diplomacy

In the years ahead we will continue to use our participation in regional arrangements in the Asia-Pacific region as a 'force multiplier' in our diplomacy.

New Zealand’s participation in the East Asia Summit process marks a new stage in our relations with East Asia.

The invitation to be part of the EAS was in recognition of New Zealand's commitment over time to developing productive bilateral relationships with countries in East Asia, and with ASEAN as an entity, and contributing to maximising the potential of groupings such as the ASEAN Regional Forum.

The largest regional circle with which we are engaged, APEC, is and will remain strategically important to New Zealand, as it encompasses a broader membership than the EAS, including the United States. This underpins continued US engagement with the region - something on which we place great importance.

As is the case in East Asia, we are seeing much greater interest in expanding regional cooperation in the Pacific.

During its year as Chair of the Pacific Island Forum New Zealand played an important role in initiating what became the 'Pacific Plan'.

The Auckland Declaration of 2004 recorded the commitment of Forum members to develop new avenues to strengthen and deepen regional cooperation. This will shape the work of the Forum in the next decade and beyond.

The Place of Multilateralism

There was reference earlier to the multilateral system being under stress. In this the member states of the United Nations and the organisation itself all have some responsibility.

It could be argued that neither the member states nor the UN itself is really to blame, but that the complexity and magnitude of the issues confronting it are such that no single organisation can deal with them.

New Zealand takes a pragmatic approach. We are not committed to multilateralism for the sake of it, but to multilateralism that works.

We also see a role for effective regionalism. Not every issue needs to wash up at the door of the United Nations.

But we believe that the world would be substantially worse off without the United Nations.

The UN is in need of reform so it can adapt to the changed environment in which it operates. New Zealand is committed to playing a constructive part in this reform.

New Zealand does not believe that ‘more institutions’ are what is required. There is no shortage of institutions, but there is a shortage of institutions working efficiently and effectively. And the member states of these institutions have to take responsibility for this.

There are some issues that, quite simply, can only be addressed properly if the international community as a whole is involved. These include, for example, climate change, threats to bio-safety and dealing with pollutants.

And in the area of international peace and security we are of the firm belief that without wide acceptance of the central importance of collective security based on the United Nations the world will be an even more dangerous place than it is today.

Security and Development Challenges

As well as pursuing foreign policy objectives through bilateral, regional and multilateral engagement, New Zealand will also continue to be involved in interventions to address specific security and development challenges.

We recognise that international security is threatened by the existence within states of injustice, poverty and conflict, and the lack of representative government, freedom and protection of human rights.

This awareness has informed the New Zealand response to international terrorism. We have been prepared to commit our military forces to UN-mandated combat operations against terrorists in Afghanistan.

And we have made other, substantial, contributions to enhancing security in that country through the deployment of a Provincial Reconstruction Team, and providing training assistance to the Afghan security forces.

But New Zealand has also contributed humanitarian and development assistance, and supported democratic elections and improving capacity to uphold human rights standards.

A similar comprehensive and multi-dimensional approach was seen in our involvement, with other partners, in Bougainville, in East Timor, and more recently in the Solomon Islands.

It is a priority for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade to strengthen professional expertise in the areas of conflict prevention and resolution.

As well as MFAT and NZAID, other government agencies, including Police and border control agencies, are increasing their capacity to provide assistance to other countries.

And they are developing mechanisms to coordinate their efforts with the work of agencies in other countries, international organisations, and individuals and NGOs with particular expertise and resources, both in New Zealand and in the countries where foreign assistance is required.

There is increasing awareness of the inter-connectedness between poverty, governance and security.

Common sense tells you these are connected; that one strongly influences the other.

In the first years of the twenty-first century there is greater awareness of these connections, as we have faced up to the plague that is international terrorism, and the extent of poverty and related human suffering that is obviously tied to the poor performance of under-resourced, or corrupt and incompetent governments.

Today over one billion people live on less than one US dollar a day - in a world that has the ability to reduce poverty dramatically.

It is also, in economic terms, a huge ‘opportunity cost’ on societies and on the global community, through foregone productivity and creativity.

The development challenge has never been higher on the international agenda.

For the first time in history, the international community has agreed on specific goals, the Millennium Development Goals, and timelines to address key poverty indicators.
The 'make poverty history' campaign has gained a high profile, and lay behind the willingness of the G8 countries last year to agree to substantial debt relief.

New Zealand is part of the Asia-Pacific region. We and the Pacific island countries, and much of near Asia, occupy the same economic, social and security space.

The flows of goods and services (the Pacific is New Zealand’s seventh most important export market), people, funds (investment and ODA), and the quality of economic growth and social development in our region are matters of common interest.

That means that the deeply concerning poverty indicators in parts of the Pacific are our problem too.

It is in our interests, and theirs, to see that our Pacific neighbours are well educated, healthy, able to earn a living, and can embrace the values underpinning a well-governed democratic society.

New Zealand’s response to the development challenge, both at the global level and in our own region, has included the establishment of a dedicated, professional aid agency, NZAID. We have also steadily increased ODA, which is up a record $60m, or 23%, in the current budget, with two more years of upward trending funding also committed.

It is a priority for NZAID to ensure that it is effective in its development programmes, through sound policy and strategy development, and through working in partnership with developing countries and other donors to achieve better development outcomes.

It is essential that every effort be made both to ensure the effectiveness of the delivery of New Zealand ODA, and to increase the overall amount.

To conclude, there was mention earlier of the perils of trying to forecast future developments in world affairs.

But it is possible to say, with complete certainty, that over the next five years and beyond it will remain vitally important for the future security and prosperity of New Zealanders that our foreign policy be finely tuned to changing circumstances.

It will be equally important that we identify clearly our priorities, and pursue our foreign policy objectives with determination.


© Scoop Media

Parliament Headlines | Politics Headlines | Regional Headlines

Werewolf: What Does Winston Peters Want His Legacy To Be?

A lot of people in New Zealand seem to resent Winston Peters and the power that he appears to have. “Appears” being the operative word. In reality, Peters will have power only up to the point that he uses it.

By next week, he’ll have become just another junior player in an MMP governing arrangement, battling to hold onto the gains he was promised. More>>


Rising Toll: Road Safety Needs To Be A Higher Priority

Official advice released to the Green Party under the Official Information Act shows that the previous National Government dismissed an option to make road safety its most important transport priority after being told the road toll was rising. More>>


Wellington.Scoop: Arrests At Blockade Of "Weapons Expo"

“We encourage people in Wellington to get down to the Westpac Stadium now for a day of awesome peace action. There will be plenty of food, music and activities to keep us sustained through the day.” More>>


Rorschach Restructuring: PSA Taking Inland Revenue To Court Over Psychometrics

The Public Service Association will be seeing Inland Revenue in Employment Court over its intention to psychometrically test employees reapplying for their roles at the department as part of its controversial Business Transformation restructuring plan. More>>


Nuclear Disarmament: Nobel Peace Prize 2017 Awarded To ICAN

Congratulations from iCAN Aotearoa New Zealand to international iCAN, the other iCAN national campaigns and partner organisations, and the countless organisations and individuals who have worked so hard for a nuclear weapons-free world since 1945. More>>


Expenses: Waikato DHB CEO Resigns

An independent inquiry has identified that Dr Murray had spent more than the agreed $25K allocated for relocation costs, and other unauthorized expenses involving potential financial breaches of the chief executive’s obligations. More>>


Wellington.Scoop: Sad About The Trolley Buses?

The Regional Council’s MetLink is today spending money to tell us that it really loves Wellington’s trolley buses, even though they’re all being taken off our roads by the end of this month. More>>


Post-Election: Preliminary Coalition Talks Begin

New Zealand First will hold post-election preliminary discussions in Wellington with the National Party tomorrow morning and the Labour Party tomorrow afternoon. More>>




Featured InfoPages

Opening the Election