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Speechnotes: Richard Worth in Hanoi


Your Excellency Mr Nguyen Van An, President of AIPO, Distinguished delegates,

I am delighted to be here in Hanoi for the 23rd ASEAN Inter-Parliamentary Organisation General Assembly and to have the opportunity of making a statement on behalf of New Zealand. Now I know why this city is described by so many people as one of the most beautiful in Asia.

New Zealand has a long-standing relationship with ASEAN. Back in 1975, when the organisation was only eight years old, New Zealand became a dialogue partner of ASEAN. This means that we have a special relationship with ASEAN and attend, at Foreign Minister level, the annual ASEAN Post-Ministerial Conference (PMC).

New Zealand regards the PMC as an important opportunity to hold a range of discussions with ASEAN counterparts. Our objectives in participating in the ASEAN PMC, and in other ASEAN bodies such as AIPO, can be summarised as follows:

we want to contribute to the evolution of a regional consensus on political and economic developments;
our participation underlines our credentials as a committed and responsible member of the Asia/Pacific community of nations;
we can reinforce our bilateral relations with the member states of ASEAN;
we gain an opportunity to exchange views with other dialogue partners who have major influence in the Asian region.

ASEAN provides an important entree for New Zealand into multilateral diplomacy. The ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) was established in 1994 as a mechanism to enable countries of the Asia Pacific region to get together once a year to discuss issues of regional security. New Zealand is a full participant in the ARF, indeed we will be hosting a working level meeting in Wellington in November this year. Although the Forum does not yet provide a mechanism for resolving conflicts, it provides a useful venue for regional leaders to discuss security concerns and to design and implement confidence building measures. The ARF has risen to the challenge of providing a regional response to the terrorism attacks of 11 September. It also offers another way of engaging North Korea with the international community.

On the economic side we are very committed to the evolving relationship between ASEAN’s trading group, known as AFTA, and the free trade agreement between Australia and New Zealand, known as CER - or Closer Economic Relations. We are encouraged by the progress that has been made in the AFTA/CER Closer Economic Partnership process over the last year. Later this week in Brunei AFTA/CER Economic Ministers will sign a Declaration, which will lay the foundation for enhanced AFTA/CER trade and economic cooperation.

New Zealand’s own trading relationship with ASEAN countries is flourishing. In 2001, our exports to ASEAN increased by 21 percent from the previous year. ASEAN now takes 8.6 percent of our total exports and five of its members are on the list of our top twenty export destinations - the biggest is Malaysia, followed by the Philippines, Indonesia, Thailand, Viet Nam and Singapore. Trade in the other direction is healthy too, as New Zealand prides itself on having a very open market. So in the same period, our imports from ASEAN increased by 24 percent, and now amount to more than NZ$1.5 billion dollars.

An interesting aspect of New Zealand’s trade with ASEAN is that we are importing more and more manufactured items - cars from Thailand, computers from Malaysia - while we continue to export to ASEAN mainly agricultural, forestry or fish products. This trend underlines the complementary nature of our economic relationship and our sectors of comparative advantage. I would like to cite a specific trading example to illustrate my point. One of New Zealand’s largest exporters of forest products provides high tech cardboard packaging board to banana growers in Davao, southern Philippines. The packaging enables the growers to ensure quality control so that the product can be shipped to third country markets, arriving at their destinations in first grade condition. There is scope for exporters in CER countries to help realise the enormous export potential of horticultural industries in ASEAN countries

I would also note the healthy level of investment by New Zealand in ASEAN and by ASEAN countries in New Zealand. Similarly, tourist numbers are growing strongly. Hanoi and Angkor Wat are amongst the trendiest tourist destinations for New Zealanders. Last year almost 100,000 tourists from ASEAN countries visited New Zealand. We have significant numbers of tertiary students from ASEAN at our universities, especially from Thailand and Malaysia. A growing number of immigrants from ASEAN countries are also making an important contribution to NZ’s national life. It is the vigour of these people-to-people linkages that gives us confidence in the long-term future of the relationship.

Let me say a few words now about the development assistance, which New Zealand provides in the ASEAN context. Ever since New Zealand became a dialogue partner in 1975, it has provided funding for multi-country projects as part of the ASEAN/New Zealand dialogue relationship. The allocation for the programme at present is NZ$1.8 million annually. This is in addition to the bilateral programmes we have with a number of ASEAN countries. Our programme focuses on:

trade related activities designed to enhance the capability of the countries cornered to trade effectively and in the process to contribute to poverty reduction;
science and technology co-operation;
English language training for officials from the newer ASEAN members
Social development initiatives.
ASEAN’s adoption in 1998 of the Ha Noi Plan of Action, in response to the Asian economic crisis, has provided a useful framework for the ASEAN-New Zealand regional co-operation Official Development Assistance programme. ASEAN leaders launched an Initiative for ASEAN Integration (IAI) in 2000 which sharpened the focus of collective efforts in ASEAN to narrow the development gap within ASEAN, as well as between ASEAN and rest of the world. New Zealand is pleased to be participating in that process.

Finally, let me express my gratitude to the organisers of this General Assembly for the invitation to attend, and for the opportunity to speak to you. Contacts like this, among the parliamentarians of the region, and with representatives from the parliaments of ASEAN dialogue countries, contribute to strengthening the good will, peace and stability, which were the goals of ASEAN’s founders back in 1967. We value ASEAN countries perspectives on international and regional issues. We hope that New Zealand is seen as a friend and a partner in the region. That is what we set out to be.

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