New Zealand Embassy Mexico City

Minister Murray McCully Address to Raul Roa Higher Institute of International Relations, Cuba

Minister Murray McCully Speaks at to Raul Roa Higher Institute of International Relations in La Habana, Cuba.

Address to Raul Roa Higher Institute of International Relations
La Habana, Cuba; 4 October 2012

It is a real pleasure to be here today with the best and brightest people in Cuba who will be your future ambassadors.  I have come to Cuba for the first time to discover more about your country, what makes it tick, the direction it is taking. I hope this event will be an opportunity for all of you to discover more about New Zealand, perhaps an unknown quantity for many of you in this room.

I want  give you a brief overview of who we are in New Zealand, of how New Zealand and Cuba share some common interests and responsibilities, and where New Zealand is headed in terms of its foreign policy, which I will say from the outset is  changing game.

New Zealand, like Cuba, is an island nation. Our region, the south pacific, is similar to your Caribbean region.

Like you we have many regional partners which are very small, isolated and fragile island developing states.

New Zealand is one of the larger players in its region. But while New Zealand has a comparatively large landmass (larger than Japan or Italy and twice the size of Cuba), we have small population- 4.5 million people.

Like Cuba, New Zealand emerged from a colonial experience. We understand the problems that post-colonial societies struggle with. We are a young country but our history is complex.

The New Zealand population is made up of many ethnicities and races.  The indigenous people- Maori- are a strong and vital part of our society. They comprise approximately 15 % of the population. But our society also includes people of European, Pacific Island, Chinese, Indian, Asia, Latin American and African descent.
The ethnic diversity of New Zealand’s population will continue to increase.

The Latin American community in New Zealand, made up of Brazilians, Chileans, Argentineans, Peruvians, Colombians and Mexicans, has grown but is still comparatively small compared to migrants from other regions.

Being an island nation, in the Southern hemisphere, with a small population presents both opportunities and challenges.

With a small domestic economy we are a country which depends on exports, and increasingly innovations- to be ahead of the game.

Our climate and our land give us a valuable competitive advantage as a producer of food. We face similar challenges as many of the countries of the South who also depend on agriculture exports.

New Zealand used to see our geographic location as a major disadvantage. But with advancements in technology, and as I said, our innovative capabilities, this is no longer the case.

Our historical ties with Europe, most of our immigrants in the nineteenth century and early twentieth century came from there and that is where our main markets were. Most of our values stem from the European democratic tradition.

But New Zealand is also a Pacific Country.

For New Zealand, the Pacific island region is integral to our national identity and to our foreign policy. A considerable proportion of New Zealand’s diplomatic resources are invested in the South Pacific.

New Zealand led the drive in the region for self-determination.

New Zealand consistently broke ground in terms of the solutions adopted in Western Samoa in 1962, the Cook Islands in 1965 and Niue in 1974.
At the global level, New Zealand is often asked to be a voice for the Pacific on the world stage – to carry the region’s messages on issues ranging from oceans to sustainable development to disaster preparedness.  And the rest of the world looks to us to learn about the Pacific.  We take our role and responsibilities in the region very seriously.

Our independent and principled stance on such issues has sometimes presented us with serious challenges in our diplomatic relationships. Our advocacy of concerns vital to our island neighbours has sometimes put us at odds with traditional friends and partners, and we have needed to deploy our best diplomatic and negotiation skills to maintain strong and vital working relationships with those partners, without compromising our principles.

The Pacific Island Forum is the key regional organisation which brings together the 16 independent and self-governing Pacific Island states. New Zealand held the Chairmanship of the Forum over the last year.

In recent times, improving the region’s prosperity has taken a higher priority than political issues. Issues of prosperity are now at the top of the Forum’s agenda.

We are focused on identifying opportunities, coming up with practical ideas, and taking action.  We hold a clear view that sustainable economic development is the key to the future of the Pacific. 

This is about finding ways to carefully use the resources and assets of the Pacific so that they benefit the people of the countries that hold them, now and in the future.

New Zealand sees its future as part of the dynamic wider Asia Pacific region.

Back in the 1970s, New Zealand was faced with the loss of access for our products to our main market at the time – Great Britain. Britain was receiving over 70% of New Zealand’s exports but its entry into the then European Economic Community meant that our products suddenly encountered barriers to their entry.

In our case, our experience of losing much of the British market in the 1970s forced us to diversify and build up new trade – and other – relationships. Our economy is now richer for this experience. For example, our large range of markets means that we were better able to withstand the impact of the Global Economic Crisis. 

Those new markets are overwhelmingly in the Asia-Pacific region. Asia Pacific nations now account for 8 of our top 10 trading partners, of which 6 are in East Asia.

Like many countries of the region, New Zealand has taken the initiative to integrate itself into Asia through free trade agreements.

We were the first developed country to negotiate an FTA with China, and the first external economy to conclude a Closer Economic Partnership with Hong Kong. We have an FTA with ASEAN, and we are negotiating agreements with Korea and India.  We are negotiating an economic partnership with Chinese Taipei.

We are also deeply involved in the Trans-Pacific Partnership FTA negotiation among what will soon be 11parties, including the US – as well as Chile, Peru and now Mexico from Latin America.

And we are part of a newly emerging process for an FTA among the 16 economies of East Asia, including China, Japan, ASEAN and India.  These plurilateral agreements will help to knit together the so-called “noodle bowl” of over 50 bilateral agreements that have emerged in the region over the last decade.

New Zealand invests heavily in the various bodies that shape the region’s architecture.

The region’s leading institutions - APEC and ASEAN - provide valuable channels for dialogue, confidence-building, and cooperation.  We are active members of APEC, the East Asia Summit, ASEAN Regional Forum and ASEAN Defence Ministers’ Forum. 

These organisations cover a wide variety of fields, including economic integration, security cooperation and development. They are important channels for a diverse set of countries to increase understanding and find ways of resolving regional problems. 

As world economic power tilts East, and given our geographical proximity, our engagement with Asia will continue to increase underpinned of course by a broad range of political, economic, cultural and people-to-people links.  

But our stake in the world does not start and end there.  As globalisation and the prevailing economic challenges take hold, cultivating and strengthening new and less traditional relationships will also be key.

Latin America has also played an important role in the diversification of our exports and economic interests.

Under the Government’s Latin America Strategy, we have recognised the importance of promoting long-term economic links with the key emerging economies of the region, such as Chile, Brazil and Mexico.  This includes the scope to increase our engagement with countries such as Cuba. 

Venezuela, Mexico and Cuba are important dairy export markets for New Zealand (NZ$846 million in 2011).  As a point of comparison, New Zealand’s dairy exports to these three countries combined are worth more than our total dairy exports to the US. 

At the same time, New Zealand businesses have made significant investments in the agriculture, energy and specialised manufacturing sectors in a range of countries in Latin America. 

But the reality is that New Zealand has, over the last 30-40 years, built far bigger markets and economic relationships with the countries of the Asia Pacific region.  In 2011, our exports to Asia were worth NZ$21 billion, with NZ$5.8 billion going to China alone.

New Zealand, as a small country, has also invested in the United Nations and the multilateral system as a whole.

As a smaller independent player on the international stage, it has always been clear to us that our economic and physical security depends on a properly functioning multilateral system, the international rule of law and dispute settlement.

The world can count on New Zealand to come to the table with fair and balanced policies.

New Zealanders are also very practical and constructive.

We like to help find solutions.

We contribute not only through building prosperity, and but also through contributions to international peace and security.

Over many decades New Zealand has brought its balanced, constructive and fair approach to many situations around the world.

Currently New Zealanders are serving in peace support operations across eleven countries, in our region and beyond.

Most recently, and as a significant indicator of how much New Zealand is recognised as an independent player, the government of Syria agreed to New Zealand military personnel joining the UN monitoring mission to Syria.

New Zealanders are internationalist by nature but also driven by the pragmatism of our situation.  

Like Cuba, we have put a lot of effort into shaping the United Nations.

We both agree that the Post World War II institutions are in need of renovation.  Not just the United Nations, not just the Security Council, but the UN Agencies along with the IMF and the World Bank. 

Some of the most fundamental issues are ones that we in the Pacific share with the Caribbean, but where our ability to influence global decision-making is limited.

As I said, New Zealand is a developed country with values inherited from our European and Pacific ancestors.

Our Pacific experience has given New Zealand an understanding of the challenges faced by island developing states in seeking security and sustainable development; including the existential threat posed by climate change to many such communities.

Like Cuba, our region experiences on a regular basis the terrifying destructive power of nature, for example in the form of heavy rains, cyclones and sometimes droughts.

New Zealand also faces devastating earthquakes, as does your neighbours in Haiti. 

I am hopeful that one of the outcomes of this visit will be an expansion of dialogue between New Zealand and Cuba .That we can build bridges that will enable us to work together more often on some of these great challenges to the multilateral system.

In keeping with our multilateral credentials, New Zealand wants to see prompt action to reform the UN Security Council.

New Zealand is worried about the expansion of permanent membership. We therefore advocate for a compromise solution, some kind of intermediate solution.

We also want to see some limitation on the veto – although our pragmatic side tells us that elimination of the veto is probably unrealistic at this time.

However, a P5 declaration that they will not use the veto in cases where there is a clear risk of crimes against humanity or genocide is reasonable to ask for.

And that’s exactly what I did last week in the General Assembly.

In our region there are 12 Pacific UN Member States who have never been on the Security Council and struggle to get the profile they deserve.  We know the Caribbean has suffered similar lack of representation.

Representing the Pacific region is therefore an important motivator behind New Zealand standing for a seat on the Council in 2014.

We are competing against two countries, Turkey and Spain, that are both larger and wealthier, and who have both served on the Council during the last ten years. Our campaign is underpinned by our track record from when we last served on the UN Security Council in 1993-94.

States know what they will get when they vote New Zealand on to the council: A fair, practical and reliable voice.

New Zealand will be an independent and principled voice, especially for small states.

We know that Cuba is interested to continue and strengthen its role in assisting the development of the small island states in the Pacific.

New Zealand welcomes this, and we also think it is worth exploring opportunities for greater cooperation on a regional level between the Pacific and the Caribbean.

Despite the challenges the Pacific faces it is a region of massive opportunity.
• We have the last tuna fishery which is not on the brink of collapse.
• A tourist industry which is ripe for expansion and development.
• And the potential to develop a range of niche agricultural products – which could go global if marketed properly.

New Zealand sees these sectors as key drivers of sustainable economic development in the Pacific.

These sectors - fisheries, tourism and tropical agriculture - are areas that the Caribbean has significant experience in developing.

So there is real potential for regional development cooperation between the Caribbean and the Pacific.

In conclusion, I want to emphasise that this has been a real visit of discovery. 

I am sure that in many ways it has helped both New Zealand and Cuba to learn much more about each other.

Our relationship has been too modest for too long.

During this visit I have heard about the important changes under way in Cuba and how the Cuban economic model is being updated.

I have heard enthusiasm for New Zealand and Cuba to work together more closely, including at the United Nations, and in our development programmes in the Pacific.

May I wish you all great success for your studies at the Diplomatic Academy.

And I hope that one day some of you will have the opportunity to serve in the Cuban Embassy in Wellington,  and to see for yourself something of our country and our region.

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