New Zealand Embassy Seoul, South Korea

NZIIA/IFANS Roundtable Dialogue

Korea-NZ: Celebrating the first Half Century of Bilateral Relations: Visions and Strategies for a stronger Partnership
Wellington, 17 February 2012
 

Opening Address by MFAT Deputy-Secretary, Dr David Walker

I welcome this seminar as one of the first events on our calendars for celebrating 50 years of diplomatic relations between the Republic of Korea and New Zealand, our 2012 Friendship Year.

I am delighted that the prestigious Institute for Foreign Affairs and National Security has agreed to collaborate in this way with the New Zealand Institute of International Affairs to take a strategic view across the relationship between our two countries.

After 50 years it is good to reflect and take stock on how the relationship has developed, and it is also important to share our views and our ambition on our future partnership. As two countries with a deep investment in the Asia-Pacific region as Chancellor Lee says we need to think about how to revitalise our relationship.

As Hon Sir Douglas Kidd has illustrated, the bonds between our two countries are deep. Our relationship was founded in the Korean War, in which over 6,000 New Zealanders served. Forty-five of those lost their lives. The legacy of that struggle remains with us still today.

Since 1998 New Zealand has actively participated in the work of the United Nations Command Military Armistice Commission in Korea which supervises the Korean Armistice Agreement. This involves a Defence Attaché based in Seoul and three full-time New Zealand Defence Force personnel who participate in inspections and Armistice violation investigations, monitoring transportation activity and planning future activities and missions under the auspices of the Armistice Agreement.

Maintaining peace and security on the Korean Peninsula is an ongoing commitment New Zealand shares with the Republic of Korea. Our UNCMAC contribution is a commitment New Zealand makes to Korea’s security, but also to broader North Asian security, a region where security, peace and prosperity are obviously connected. The New Zealand memorial in Kapyong, the site of one of the most critical battles of the Korean War, is a potent reminder of the importance that the New Zealand government places on honouring the contribution of our veterans.

Our veterans recall with pride their part in the Republic of Korea’s struggle for freedom and democracy. They look back on the Korea of 50 years ago – war-ravaged, without infrastructure, poor and rural – and compare it with the Republic of Korea today – industrial, urban, modern, an innovative and global power with a dynamic economy and a strong presence in and leadership of international forums. The hardships that the people of Korea endured in the last century have shaped a special determination amongst the people of the Republic of Korea to succeed.

But challenges remain – longstanding territorial disputes, lingering grievances from wartime and colonial experiences, uneven levels of economic development - continue to permeate the Asia-Pacific strategic environment, along with the more recent challenges such as changes in the balance of economic power, pressures on the global environment and resources, the spread of weapons of mass destruction and of transnational crime.

Against this background, Korea and New Zealand have worked together with our Asia-Pacific partners to build a dynamic, open and inclusive regional architecture that provides a foundation for dialogue and cooperative endeavour, through APEC, the East Asia Summit, the ASEAN Regional Forum and other dialogue mechanisms. Through this together we seek to make it less likely that individual powers will adopt zero-sum approaches in pursuing their interests.

We also work closely in the multilateral arena. We have similar views about the potential of green growth to drive economic and environmental progress. We strongly support nuclear disarmament and we both work to prevent the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and to support the extension of universal human rights and the rule of law. Our militaries have worked in neighbouring provinces to bring about a peaceful transition to Afghan led civilian rule in Afghanistan and are committed to improving the effectiveness of aid delivery.

New Zealand is also proud of the many developments in our bilateral ties with Korea:

We celebrate our Korean community here in New Zealand of around 30,000 people who contribute to our economy and the rich fabric of New Zealand society. Golfers Danny Lee, Lydia Ko and Cecelia Cho, and New Zealand's first Korean ethnic MP Melissa Lee are increasingly prominent ambassadors of the drive and success of that community.

Korea is our second largest source of international students and seventh largest source of tourists with almost 53,000 visitors in 2011. Every year 1,800 young Koreans come to work and play in New Zealand under our bilateral Working Holiday Scheme. The New Zealand business and teaching community in Korea in return is growing, with some 1,500 New Zealanders teaching English in Korea.

Science and innovation cooperation is a very positive strand in the bilateral relationship with our respective scientists having recently embarked on a third three-year programme of joint activities. Our latest programme for collaboration will focus on green growth, Antarctic research, and new medicines and medical applications.

We are increasingly cooperating in other areas such as climate change, Antarctica and security. In this regard we welcome Korea joining the Global Research Alliance last year and we look forward to concluding an Antarctic Cooperation Treaty and a defence related Information Sharing Agreement with Korea this year.

Our film industries have also developed a significant relationship following the conclusion of a Film Co-Production Agreement in 2008. It is pleasing to see several renowned Korean films have been made or post-produced in New Zealand. We hope this trend will continue. Korea has also held successful Korean Film Festivals in New Zealand for the past 6 years and the Korean Food Festival which was held for the first time last year has also proven to be very popular.

As a strongly emerging development assistance donor, Korea is also a natural partner for aid coordination in the Pacific. Following Korea’s successful hosting last November of the High-Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness we are deepening our dialogue as aid donors with a shared interest in using international development as a way to improve the livelihoods and resilience of our partners.

You will not be surprised I am sure that I mention the value and importance to New Zealand of the Republic of Korea as a trading partner – currently our fifth largest – with two way trade at NZ$3 billion and growing. New Zealand’s exports to Korea include wood (22%), meat (12%), dairy (12%) and aluminium (7%). Imports from Korea include petroleum oils and minerals (25%), motor vehicles (19%), electrical and other machinery (10%) and trains (6.6%). It is clear that Korean brands, such as Samsung, Hyundai and Kia, are becoming common household names in New Zealand.

However, this is not a completely rosy picture. Our respective market shares relative to our key competitors in each other’s markets are slipping, relative to our key competitors in each other’s markets. In recent years, our share of Korea’s total imports has roughly halved. Similarly, while the total value of Korea’s exports to New Zealand has nearly tripled, its share of our import market is growing much more slowly than some of its competitors in the New Zealand market.

One of the chief contributors to this is our respective network of free trade agreements. For example, Korea and the P4 countries – Singapore, Brunei, and Chile – had a similar share of our imports in 2001 but, following the implementation of the P4 Free Trade Agreement in 2005, those countries’ market share is roughly double that of Korea’s and make a very significant difference in the dynamics of economic relationships.

We know there is further potential in our economic relationship with Korea. This is why the New Zealand Government is putting such an emphasis on the conclusion of a bilateral Free Trade Agreement with Korea. An FTA will help Korea tackle the challenge of rising consumer prices and food security by encouraging a reliable supply of New Zealand’s agricultural products. An FTA will give greater certainty for businesses increasing the prospects for increased investment, innovation, and collaboration to occur. An FTA will lead to more effective communication between our respective regulatory agencies. This is not simply about reduction of certain tariffs, but a broad range of benefits which can extend across the boundaries of purely economic activity to include socio-cultural interaction and people to people exchanges.

The conclusion of an FTA between the two countries is an aspiration we would like to see achieved in this our Year of Friendship this year. It could be no bigger statement of friendship. We believe a bilateral FTA would provide enormous impetus to Korea-New Zealand relations and a platform for enhanced regional economic integration. An FTA will move the bilateral relationship to the next level by unlocking the unrealised potential for greater trade, investment and people flows between the two countries. It is one of the key initiatives that we can put in place to set the path for a vigorous and dynamic relationship for the next 50 years.

Looking ahead, we look forward to a future in which New Zealand and Korea has advanced its collaboration and achieved new levels of engagement in many areas. These might include:
• regional economic integration, jointly contributing to the Asia-Pacific’s global competitiveness and prosperity;
• joint science and innovation endeavour which improves the health, environment and prosperity of our peoples;
• protecting our environment and sustainably managing our resources;
• donor cooperation and effective partnership with the more vulnerable states in our region that results in a more equitable distribution of wealth and sustainable economic development.

We believe there is much to be achieved in our relationship. I am certain that today’s discussions will stimulate a great many ideas for the future of New Zealand–Korea relationship and I look forward to learning the outcomes of your deliberations.
 

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