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Goff: US-NZ Partnership Forum

Different paths to common values

Trade Minister Phil Goff's speech to the US-NZ Partnership Forum at the Cosmos Club, Washington DC, on April 21

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I am delighted to be in Washington today at this opening session of the United States-New Zealand Partnership Forum. I congratulate both Councils on their initiative and thank the United States/New Zealand Council for its role as inaugural host.

I want to focus first on the importance of the common values and interests that New Zealand and the United States share.

At the most fundamental level, we both have an overriding commitment to democracy, the rule of law, human rights and freedoms. We are both old democracies, and members of a relatively small group of countries that over the last century have been consistent in the advocacy and practice of these principles.

At the same time we see ourselves as still young societies with a dynamic, positive and forward-looking perspective, a faith in progress and a belief that the future will be better than the past.

Drawing on pioneering origins, we value pragmatism, common sense and getting things done. Our populations are diverse, dynamic and relatively youthful, fuelled by rapid inward migration. We believe in equal opportunity and advancement according to merit, fostered by market-friendly, open, transparent and well-governed economies.

We also share a strong commitment to building and maintaining global peace and prosperity. Our work together in pursuit of these common goals is not new.

In the international security arena, New Zealand and the United States fought alongside each other in the major conflicts of the 20th Century - in both World Wars, in Korea, Vietnam, and the first Gulf War. More recently our defence personnel have served together in Somalia, Bosnia, and Kosovo. New Zealand personnel are currently serving in Afghanistan, Solomon Islands, the Balkans, the Middle East, East Timor, Korea and Sudan.

One of the realities of the 21st Century is the threat posed to all states by terrorism. Since September 2001, New Zealand has committed itself strongly to the global campaign against terrorism and to Operation Enduring Freedom, deploying ground, naval and air assets to Afghanistan and the Gulf region. Three rotations of our special forces have served in Afghanistan, working alongside their US and other international counterparts in security operations.

Our 120-strong Provincial Reconstruction Team in Bamyan province was just the third established in Afghanistan and is now about to enter its eighth rotation. The government last week decided to continue that commitment for a further year recognising the contribution we all need to make in enhancing security and creating an environment in which Afghan and international reconstruction work can gain traction.

New Zealand did not join the coalition of the willing in Iraq, believing that UN processes should be allowed to run their course. After the initial phase of hostilities in 2003 however, we sent a team of Army engineers to Iraq to assist in reconstruction efforts for a year and we continue to provide development assistance.

Like the United States, New Zealand recognises the importance for the world of promoting stability and security in the Middle East. We have contributed to the Multilateral Forces and Observers (MFO) in Sinai since 1982. Our involvement in the United Nations Truce Supervision Organisation (UNTSO) in the Middle East dates back to 1954. A New Zealander, Brigadier General Clive Lilley, is currently heading the UNTSO.

Our two countries share objectives in promoting international prosperity as well as security. We work very closely together in a multitude of regional and international fora including the WTO and APEC, promoting trade and economic liberalisation and enhancement of the multilateral trading system.

New Zealand has been at the forefront of international trade liberalisation, significantly reforming our own economy in the mid-1980s and pursuing bilateral and regional free trade agreements in a policy similar to the US "competitive liberalisation" approach. Few, if any, other countries have worked as consistently and closely together in support of trade liberalisation as the US and New Zealand.

To protect and preserve one of the world's great natural environments, our countries have also worked together for almost 50 years in a unique joint cooperation arrangement in Antarctica. We are both longstanding supporters of the Antarctic Treaty System.

New Zealand is a committed advocate of, and participant in, international non-proliferation efforts including the US-led Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI), a key multilateral initiative designed to prevent the illegal trafficking of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons or materials - in a manner consistent with domestic and international law. We are also active in the G8 Weapons of Mass Destruction disposal efforts together with the US.

The strength of our shared values and interests, and record of work together towards common goals does not mean identical outlooks on all issues. It would be surprising if the interests and perspectives of a small country of four million people located in the South Pacific did not sometimes differ from the outlook of the global superpower of close to 300 million. Most bilateral relationships of any substance have points of difference as well as of convergence.

New Zealand's nuclear-free legislation remains an issue on which we disagree. We appreciate that this is an important issue to the US government as it is equally to New Zealanders who wish to remain nuclear free. The issue is not going to disappear. But nor is it appropriate for our relationship to be defined by the disagreement between our countries on one particular issue.

Rather we should look at how we can add new value to our relationship in a way that meets both of our needs in the post 9/11 world. The challenge ahead of us is to build a relationship based on our common values that looks forward and serves both of our national interests in the 21st Century.

We are already working from the New Zealand end to strengthen the relationship through increased contacts between our two governments, the highest quality of bilateral dialogue, appropriate attention to our many areas of policy convergence and common interest, and to manage obstacles to practical beneficial collaboration.

We should aim at a partnership that allows us to adopt complementary and mutually reinforcing roles based on our shared values.

Since 9/11 our cooperation across a range of security policy, non-proliferation, customs, police and intelligence sharing areas has increased. These are not areas we often talk about publicly for obvious reasons, but they are very important. They are areas where New Zealand has devoted more resources since 2001 and areas where our interaction with the US and other close friends has intensified.

One role played by New Zealand that can complement and provide mutual benefits for both our countries stems from New Zealand's interest in, and responsibility towards, assisting neighbouring Pacific Island states.

Small island developing states have very few avenues for economic development and face many challenges. Vulnerabilities, particularly in Melanesia, arise from population growth, governance failures, environmental impacts and the potential for destabilising outside influences including from transnational organised crime.

New Zealand is well placed to make a positive contribution to the region, in cooperation with Australia and the Pacific Forum. We are a Pacific nation. New Zealand's indigenous Maori people are Polynesian. Our largest city, Auckland, is home to more Pacific Island people than any other city in the world. The influence of the Pacific is increasingly part of our distinctive New Zealand identity.

New Zealand is heavily involved in the South Pacific, providing support both bilaterally and through regional efforts. We seek to promote economic development and political stability security through the Pacific Plan and through trade and economic initiatives. Much of our current work centres on security issues.

We have played an important role in restoring stability to the Papua New Guinea island of Bougainville, after a civil war that cost 20,000 lives. In East Timor we committed a battalion-sized force for three years as our contribution to its struggle for self-determination and reconstruction.

In the Solomon Islands, together with Australia and Pacific Forum countries, our defence force personnel and police helped pull that country back from the brink of civil war and anarchy. The Regional Assistance Mission in the Solomon Islands (RAMSI) has been a good model for regional cooperation and measured intervention in fragile states. The US State Department has acknowledged RAMSI to be an excellent example of Condoleezza Rice's concept of transformational diplomacy, building and supporting democratic, well-governed states.

Achieving this, and President Bush's freedom and democracy agenda, is, however, far from straightforward. Intervening to help a country function properly does not by itself change the culture of governance or behaviour. Riots, which followed the announcement of the results of the elections that were successfully conducted in the Solomons last week, are recent evidence of that.

New Zealand is increasingly an active participant in the wider Asia Pacific region. We recognise the key leadership role played by the US in promoting security and prosperity in the region.

This region is the powerhouse of the international economy. As it grows Asia-Pacific is beginning to develop its own regional architecture. New Zealand was included in the newest part of that architecture in the East Asia Summit, which met for the first time in Kuala Lumpur in December 2005 and is to be an annual fixture.

This could prove a valuable forum in which issues of common concern, ranging from natural disasters, to economic integration, trade and investment flows, to security, can be discussed.

APEC, however, continues to be our priority, bringing together a wider regional grouping of economic and political partners including the United States.

New Zealand is also active in counter-terrorism efforts in Southeast Asia. One recent important initiative was an Interfaith Dialogue, jointly hosted in the Philippines by Australia, Indonesia, the Philippines and New Zealand. This is a valuable mechanism for supporting moderate Islam in the region.

Turning to our own trade and economic relationship, the United States is currently the second largest market for New Zealand merchandise goods. It is a vital supplier of goods and services into New Zealand and an important source of foreign direct investment. Negotiating a Free Trade Agreement with the United States is therefore an important objective for New Zealand.

The arguments for an FTA are strong. A bilateral FTA would be in the economic interests of both of us and would be relatively straightforward to negotiate. It makes sense for two countries which work together so closely for international trade liberalisation to remove the barriers to trade between each other. The negotiation of a high quality, comprehensive FTA could have a positive effect with other trading partners.

Some people point to New Zealand's small size as a reason for not initiating negotiations. While an FTA with New Zealand is not going to result in the same benefits to the US economy as an FTA between the US and Korea, a quality agreement with New Zealand would provide a good benchmark for a US/Korea or other negotiation.

We have good support from US business interests, and strong Congressional support. However the decision to negotiate an FTA rests with the US Administration. New Zealand will continue to press its case as a short and medium-term priority. I would encourage all the businesses here today to continue to be vocal in support of this objective.

In conclusion, this opening session poses the theme of different paths to common values. Different histories, location, size and experience clearly produce different outlooks and create different responsibilities. But a shared western heritage, which has shaped common liberal and democratic values, has also produced a like-mindedness that draws our countries together.

We also have a common interest in a world that is stable, secure, peaceful and prosperous. It makes sense for us to work together in pursuit of these objectives, but that does not require the suppression of differences of viewpoints on specific issues. We are, after all, both countries committed to pluralism.

I welcome the opportunity for dialogue this Forum provides to discuss the challenges and opportunities for strengthening the relationship between our two countries for mutual benefit.

ENDS

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