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NZ and Korea – Partners in a changing Asia

Rt Hon Winston Peters
Minister of Foreign Affairs

10 October 2006
Speech Notes

NZ and Korea – Partners in a changing Asia

Delivered to the Korea-NZ Seminar
Turnbull House

This address regrettably is set against the alarming claim from North Korea that it has conducted a nuclear test. This regime has a disregard for seeing peace and stability in the region.

North Korea must desist from the folly of thinking the nuclear path is the best way forward, for the sake of not only its own people but for the whole peninsula, and indeed the world.

Every step that responsible nations can take to ensure that the North Korean regime comes to this conclusion must be taken now, before it leads to further escalation, both in the region and elsewhere.

And now to a positive note.

New Zealand and Korea, Old Friends

New Zealand and the Republic of Korea have a dynamic and evolving relationship. We are both open democracies, committed to free market economic policies.

Our relationship was first established during the Korean War when New Zealand answered the United Nations call to assist Korea. New Zealand has since assisted with Korea’s economic development and entry into the United Nations.

We have built a strong, complementary trading relationship and share many regional and international interests including APEC, the newly-established East Asia Summit process, the World Bank and IMF (where we belong to the same constituency) and the OECD.

Our modern relationship is wide-ranging, involving numerous consultative processes and cooperative activities.

The core of the economic relationship is based on trade, tourism, education and science and technology. This relationship is mutually beneficial because New Zealand sells what Korea wants to buy (primary products) and Korea sells what NZ wants (manufactured goods).

Trade in services is an exciting area of growth, if tricky to quantify – though Korea is the second largest source of foreign students in New Zealand and last year over 110,000 Koreans visited New Zealand, most as tourists.

There is a growing Korean community in New Zealand, and many other people to people and cultural connections in addition to strong links across government agencies. Several large New Zealand businesses maintain offices in Korea.

Korea is an important potential partner and has responded positively to New Zealand’s efforts to engage in new areas in science and technology, film, education, tourism and investment.

There is scope for us to increase our interactions in all of these areas. One key area to watch for the future is investment, in areas such as forestry and wood processing, livestock and agriculture, biotechnology, and information and communications technology (ICT).

More than just friends, Partners for the Future

While the New Zealand and Korea governments are working together to open doors, ultimately it is up to people, businesses and organisations to make the real connections.

This is why we value so highly groups like the Korea-New Zealand Business Council and the New Zealand Institute of International Affairs that, as we can see today, are the driving forces behind pursuing closer linkages from which we can all benefit.

The two governments, in close collaboration with businesses and interested groups, are committed to uncovering areas in which we might develop even closer links. The proposed visit by President Roh [pronounced “No”] later this year provides the opportunity for many new initiatives to take the relationship forward.

For example, our governments have identified similar research, science and technology priorities, which provide a platform for developing our relationship.

There is momentum across bilateral activities such as the Focal Point Programme, in which New Zealand’s Foundation for Research, Science, and Technology is working with the Korea Science and Engineering Foundation.

Korea and New Zealand have also signed an audio-visual cooperation arrangement that provides for cooperation and collaboration between our audiovisual industries, particularly in the film sector.

At the consumer end of film, we have seen a range of Korean and New Zealand film festivals be hosted in the respective countries. The next big film event is the Korea Film Festival to be held in three New Zealand cities later this year.

Although it has been outstripped by Korea’s phenomenal growth in other sectors, the agricultural sector is considered a “national treasure” and remains a key part of the Korean national identity.

Given the very different paths our agricultural sectors have taken, there is a lot to be gained from agricultural cooperation between the Korea and New Zealand. Our respective Ministries of Agriculture and Forestry are looking into ways in which this cooperation might take place.

A bilateral Free Trade Agreement would be a logical addition to the longstanding and warm relationship that exists between our two countries.

Our Trade Minister, Phil Goff, would be delighted to begin FTA negotiations with Korea at any stage, and we have listened carefully to Korean reservations about doing that right now. Most of the Korean concerns with an FTA with New Zealand relate to the fears of a small (but vocal minority) that our agricultural market could swamp Korea’s. Their fears are unfounded.

New Zealand’s negotiations with China on an FTA are well advanced and could conclude within the next eighteen months. New Zealand and Japan are also taking a progressive look at how we might take our trade and economic relationship forward. Korea is the missing third piece of this North Asia puzzle.

Changing Asia

Asia is in the process of redefining itself. In some contexts, the word “Asia” refers to handful of countries, in other contexts it describes over half the globe.

Yet underpinning this ambiguity, there is real sense that Korea and New Zealand share a distinct part of the world. Perhaps the difficulty in defining Asia is part of what makes it such an exciting and dynamic region.

Rather than try and analyse who and what constitutes Asia, it is useful to consider a few issues and developments that are clearly related to the Korea-New Zealand relationship as particularly located in Asia.

A number of Asian regional groupings and organisations hold the potential for some very interesting economic, security and political linkages.

ASEAN has seen some key developments of late, like Japan’s proposals including for a Free Trade Agreement between ASEAN and six other countries including New Zealand. In the background of all this, Australia and New Zealand are currently jointly negotiating an FTA with ASEAN.

There are some exciting new possibilities for cooperation through the East Asia Summit process, though we’re not yet sure whether it can create a regional community.

The different compositions of APEC and the EAS may pose some challenges. The EAS should have a role that complements and adds value to the work of other regional organisations, such as APEC.

On a personal note, it is pleasing to see how well the Korean Foreign Minister Ban Ki-moon has been doing in his candidature for UN Secretary General. In fact, the final decision for the new Secretary General is taking place right about now.

Having met with Foreign Minister Ban many times, including his visit to Auckland in August, we think he would do a very good job in this vital role. He characterises the best aspects of Dynamic Korea, bringing an energetic yet considered attitude which will be essential in guiding the UN through some challenging times.

There is much to look forward to in our relationship, but much work to be done. The task ahead of all of us is to roll our sleeves up and keep making progress.

Thank you.


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