New Zealand Embassy Manila, The Philippines

New Zealand and Asia – getting closer together

As we begin 2011, it’s a good time to reflect on New Zealand’s engagement in this region last year.  New Zealand considers itself to be more and more a part of Asia, and our actions in 2010 really backed that up.

2010 began with the ASEAN-Australia-New Zealand Free Trade Agreement (AANZFTA) entering into force on New Year’s Day.  The agreement is a major achievement — it’s the first comprehensive trade agreement that ASEAN has been a party to, which means it covers all aspects of trade in goods and services, as well as investment and other tricky areas like competition policy and intellectual property.  It’s also a ‘living agreement’ that will continually be built on to make sure that we all get as much benefit as possible, as quickly as possible. 

A real highlight of 2010 for me was the outreach that we at the New Zealand embassy undertook with our Australian colleagues and with various Philippine government departments including the Department of Trade and Industry.  It was especially good to see DTI taking the message about AANZFTA right around the country, and of course to help out in doing that ourselves.  

As the region’s leaders for the East Asia Summit in Ha Noi and at APEC in Yokohama towards the end of the year, they talked a lot about developing regional free trade agreements.  There are several candidates for taking trade liberalisation and economic integration further: the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the Closer Economic Partnership in East Asia and the Free Trade Area of the Asia Pacific.  I’m pleased to say that New Zealand and the Philippines are both heavily involved in discussions on all of these possible agreements.  Everyone agrees that as well as the immediate trading benefits that AANZFTA brings for businesses operating in ASEAN, Australia and New Zealand, it is also a significant strategic building block for these much broader agreements.

But it’s not only on economic matters that New Zealand is getting more involved in this region.  A summit was held in October last year to commemorate 35 years of dialogue partnership between New Zealand and ASEAN.  At the summit Prime Minister John Key described how New Zealand’s relationship with ASEAN had moved on from being primarily focused on development aid 35 years ago.  The partnership now involved deepening economic integration (as characterised by AANZFTA), and was continuing onwards to become a deep and multifaceted partnership.  That partnership now spans all three pillars of the ‘Roadmap for an ASEAN Community’ — economic, political-security and socio-cultural.

The ASEAN-New Zealand summit was also the launching point for our four ‘flagship initiatives’ for strengthened engagement with ASEAN.  These are the ASEAN-New Zealand scholarships programme (which will provide 170 scholarships to ASEAN countries annually for the next five years), a young business leaders exchange programme, cooperation on disaster risk management and agricultural diplomacy.  These initiatives are a significant demonstration of New Zealand’s commitment to making a contribution in this region.

We’re also getting more engaged in ensuring the security of the region.  Defence Minister Wayne Mapp took part in the first meeting of defence ministers from ASEAN and its eight regional partners in October, where he made it quite clear that security and stability in the Asia-Pacific are vital in order for New Zealanders to prosper.  This new defence ministers’ meeting (known by its unwieldy acronym ADMM+) provides a forum for discussion of transnational crime issues such as nuclear proliferation, drug trafficking and people smuggling.  New Zealand and the Philippines have put their hands up to co-chair the expert working group on peacekeeping operations, which I’m sure will be a boost to our bilateral security ties as well.

ASEAN, and the Philippines, played a large role in New Zealand’s successful bid for membership of the Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) last year.  On top of these new developments, there is of course a lot of good work going on in other regional forums like APEC, the ASEAN Regional Forum and the Forum for East Asian and Latin American Cooperation. 

2010 was a very significant year for New Zealand’s involvement in this region.  We at the embassy here in Manila, along with our counterparts in other Asian capitals and in Wellington, will continue working hard this year to bring New Zealand and Asia even closer together.

By New Zealand Ambassador Andrew Matheson



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