Improving Growth and Security in the Asia Pacific Region: New Zealand’s Contribution

Hon Phil Goff (New Zealand Parliament)
Hon Phil Goff (New Zealand Parliament)

Remarks by the Honorable Phil Goff, New Zealand Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade

Washington, DC
April 7, 2004

Thank you for your warm welcome. May I thank the Asia Society for hosting this breakfast. It is a pleasure to be here and to have the opportunity to address such a distinguished audience. I understand that the Executive Director, Joe Snyder, is currently overseas but the Asia Society staff here today have done a great job in his absence.

We are also grateful to the Asia Society for hosting an exhibition of contemporary New Zealand and Pacific Island art in New York, titled Paradise Now?, as well as a series of short New Zealand films.

The terrible events of 11 September 2001 marked a turning point in how the international community thought about threats to national security, and in particular how Governments could defend the physical and economic security of their citizens.

In the twentieth century, the main threat to global economic prosperity and security was the threat of world wars between nations. Indeed this threat was realised twice, with devastating loss of human life and huge economic costs. And a range of what we referred to as “limited wars” also significantly undermined growth and security, albeit at a regional level. Afghanistan after 1979 is a case in point.

Today security can no longer be conceived narrowly in traditional military terms. The terrorist attacks of 11 September, and subsequent attacks including those in Bali and Madrid bear testament to this. Threats have become more difficult to identify and, therefore, to manage. Terrorists don’t belong to an army, and their funding streams are difficult to identify. Terrorism attacks indiscriminately, killing victims who are non-combatants, regardless of age, gender, ethnicity or religion.

It’s against this background that I’ve been asked to speak to you this morning about New Zealand’s role in contributing to growth and security in the Asia Pacific region.

I thought it would be useful, firstly, to briefly background New Zealand and how it fits into the world.

New Zealand is a small state. We have a population of just 4,000,000 people – a few more than live in Detroit, and a few less than Dallas, Texas. New Zealand’s GDP in 2003 was US$77.5 billion, around the economic output of a state like Nevada.

Following reforms in the 1980s, New Zealand’s economy has done relatively well. We have averaged 3-4% growth per annum over the last couple of years. Unemployment at present is around 4.6% and inflation 1.6% and we have enjoyed consistent government surpluses.

Our society is built from a range of diverse cultures, which gives us a good understanding of and linkages to other countries. My own electorate of Mt Roskill is 26% Asian (mainly Chinese and Indian) and 15% Polynesian and has more than 60 ethnicities, from all parts of the globe.

Anyone who has spent time on a plane flying to New Zealand will appreciate our sense of geographical distance from other parts of the world. We have no land border with any country and our nearest neighbours are some three hours flying time from New Zealand.

We’re heavily reliant on overseas markets to sell our products, many of which are based on our competitiveness in pastoral agriculture as well as forestry, fisheries and horticulture. We are a significant tourist destination with over 2 million visitors a year. Our economy is diversifying with a focus on growth areas like biotechnology, information technology and creative industries, the latter including a strong film industry which took 11 Oscars at this year’s ceremony.

We are a strongly independent minded, liberal democracy which places a high value on the establishment of a rules based international system rather than a world order based on power.

New Zealand participated in the founding conference of the United Nations in San Francisco in 1945. Our vision was a system in which governments could band together to protect themselves from tyranny and aggression within a framework of international law and universally agreed principles to govern the behaviour and interaction of nation states.

Looking back from where we are now, we’ve come a long way. A large body of international law regulates international conduct and sets important benchmarks and principles against which behaviour of states can be, and increasingly is, measured.

However, we are still a long way from having a universally accepted legal framework that underpins the growth and security of all members of the international community.

New Zealand shares the United States’ assessment of the threat terrorism poses to international prosperity and security. We also share your determination to eliminate terrorism. New Zealand is actively contributing to the international campaign against terrorism.

In particular we’re playing a significant role in Afghanistan. We have committed ourselves to investing US$53 million in military and development support to Afghanistan, a large sum for a small country, a long way from that troubled part of the world. In the aftermath of 11 September, New Zealand quickly supported the military campaign against terrorism through the deployment to Afghanistan of our special forces – the Special Air Service – for twelve months. And we gave an initial NZ$4.6 million in humanitarian aid to support reconstruction efforts.

Acknowledging the need to facilitate growth and stability in Afghanistan, we assumed leadership of the Provincial Reconstruction Team in Bamian in September 2003 – the third country, after the US and the UK, to take on such a responsibility.

Just last week I was in Berlin for the Conference on Afghanistan along with Secretary of State Powell. The countries there all agreed that Afghanistan has made real progress since the repressive regime of the Taliban.

But we also agreed on the critical need to urgently address the significant political, reconstruction and security challenges facing the Afghanistan Transitional Authority.

Following the end of the Soviet occupation the international community stood back and watched Afghanistan fail. The result was not only the subjection of Afghanistan to years of violence but also its exploitation as a failed state by Al Qaeda as a haven for terrorist training and attacks on the world. The resolve shown by nations at Berlin, which committed US$8.2 billion to Afghanistan’s support, was that this should not be allowed to happen again.

Just this week we again deployed New Zealand’s special forces to Afghanistan. Our goal is to contribute to stability during this critical time in the development of Afghanistan’s political process as it prepares for its September elections. We’ve also extended our commitment to leading the Bamian Provincial Reconstruction team until September 2005, and pledged an additional NZ$5 million development assistance for Afghanistan.

With regard to Iraq, New Zealand did not commit the use of its armed forces to the conflict in the same way. We took a stance independent to that of some of our traditional friends and allies. New Zealand strongly opposed the regime of Saddam Hussein. New Zealand nevertheless believed that concern about Iraq’s possible possession of weapons of mass destruction should be addressed first through Unmovic’s weapons inspection process. Military intervention should only be taken as a last resort if Unmovic was not able to carry out its task.

We also saw it as vastly preferable that Iraq’s non-compliance with UN resolutions, and any consequent action against it be addressed multilaterally. Following September 11, the United States’ pursuit of multilateralism in the campaign against terrorism had succeeded in creating a broad front including the Islamic and Arab world, against terrorism. We believed that using a similar technique against Saddam was vitally important, particularly if in the end force was necessary.

In the event, our hopes for a multilateral response were disappointed and we were not involved in the conflict. Following that however, we responded to the Security Council’s appeal for reconstruction and rehabilitation assistance.

In September last year, we sent a group of engineers from our Defence Force – a total of 61 men and women – to work alongside the UK and other countries on reconstruction and humanitarian tasks in Southern Iraq. The New Zealand group has been working to improve the delivery of clean water, refurbishing schools and maintaining crucial infrastructure. We have committed around NZ$10 million for humanitarian relief in Iraq.

New Zealand’s Government recently announced the engineers would stay on in Iraq for an additional six month rotation, completing the deployment in October 2004 with a possible redeployment later, subject to other commitments. We will maintain our support for the reconstruction of Iraq over the coming years.

New Zealand shares the United States’ deep concern about the threat to regional security and stability posed by North Korea’s apparent development of nuclear weapons. We are supporting diplomatic efforts to persuade Pyongyang to agree to complete, irreversible and verifiable abandonment of its nuclear weapons programme, to meet its obligations under the Non Proliferation Treaty, and to resume cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency as soon as possible.

New Zealand is also contributing to a range of other peace keeping operations around the world. Consistent with our strong commitment to collective security, New Zealand currently has troops deployed to UN peacekeeping missions in Timor Leste, Kosovo, Sierra Leone, and the UN Truce Supervision Mission in Israel, Lebanon and Syria.

For over 20 years New Zealand peacekeepers have participated in the US initiated Multinational Force and Observers, stationed on the Sinai border of Egypt and Israel. We also have defence force personnel participating in the UN mandated mission in Bosnia.

We are contributing to the removal of unexploded ordnance and landmines in Cambodia, Afghanistan and Mozambique.

New Zealand is also working closely with the United States to improve the international trading system.

If we are to address the gap between rich and poor countries in the world and the destabilising impact of growing inequalities, we must ensure that developing countries can share the benefits of globalisation. Removing obstacles to developing countries selling products in the developed world would be a huge step in the right direction.

The current trading system entrenches real inequities that smother opportunities for economic growth. This is particularly apparent in the agriculture sector, where many rich countries spend much more on subsidising their own farmers than they do on foreign aid. They then limit opportunities for poor countries to sell agricultural products in their high value markets because these imports threaten their inefficient and highly subsidised agricultural production.

Individual countries can take effective unilateral steps to improve the situation for developing countries. For example, New Zealand has removed all tariffs, duties and other barriers to imports from Least Developed Countries.

To really address the inequities of the global trading system however, multilateral action through the World Trade Organisation is necessary.

New Zealand and the US share a commitment to getting the current Doha Round of WTO negotiations back on track. Our Trade Minister, Jim Sutton, works closely on WTO issues with USTR Bob Zoellick.

We also work alongside the US on regional trade and economic issues through the APEC process. And we have registered with President Bush our interest in opening negotiations on a Free Trade Agreement with the US. For 20 years New Zealand has operated a Closer Economic Relations agreement with Australia, one of the world’s model free trade agreements, this has resulted in our two economies being closely integrated. To have one of those economies in a free trade agreement with the United States but not the other risks having a distortionary impact. That is the reason why on the completion of the AUSFTA, New Zealand also is seeking to open negotiations for a free trade agreement with the US.

New Zealand continues to pursue strengthened trade and economic, and political linkages with other partners in the Asia-Pacific region. Japan, China and the Republic of Korea, Taiwan and Hong Kong are amongst our top ten trading partners, with a significant level of trade also with South East Asia. We are seeking to remove barriers to trade in the region having negotiated a free trade agreement with Singapore, and currently negotiating one with Thailand. We are discussing a possible free trade agreement with China.

Looking at our contribution to security in the Asia Pacific region, New Zealand has played a real role in facilitating the independence of Timor Leste. Alongside Australia and other countries, New Zealand deployed peacekeepers to East Timor from September 1999 through to November 2002. At the operation’s peak, we had more than 1100 defence personnel on the ground approximately 10% of the total peacekeeping force, and vastly disproportionate to our size as a country.

We have provided police, prisons and customs officers to Timor Leste to help run essential services and train their Timorese counterparts. And we still have a small number of defence personnel serving in various roles in Timor Leste, assisting that country’s emergence as a stable, economically viable democracy in our region.

We are an active participant in the ASEAN Regional Forum. We were fully supportive of US-led efforts to enhance the security dimension of APEC. We are participating in anti-people smuggling and counter-terrorism efforts in the region, including strengthening police liaison.

As the international community gears up to meet the challenges posed by terrorism, we have applied more resources in areas such as border control, counterterrorism and intelligence gathering.

The new security environment provides new challenges to international trade. Our exporters have to comply with a range of demanding new measures such as the US Bioterrorism Act. These requirements provide an even greater challenge to the island states of the South Pacific. New international measures to boost security against terrorism threaten the viability of small Pacific economies. The new benchmarks for shipping and aviation cargo, for example, pose significant capacity issues for many island countries. If their systems are not rapidly brought into line with minimum international standards, then their airlines, banking and shipping services, tourism, exports and investment prospects will all be severely affected.

Small Pacific countries are not immune to current security threats. Modern telecommunications and mass travel have brought improvements for our Pacific neighbours – but they’ve also introduced new problems and challenges.

They are vulnerable to all aspects of transnational organised crime – drugs, money laundering, people and wildlife smuggling, international fraud, and gun trafficking. And, the potential cannot be ruled out of a risk of South Pacific states unwittingly harbouring terrorists.

Our neighbours’ vulnerability is accentuated by their limited capacity to enforce laws and control borders, particularly given the increasing sophistication of international criminals.

We recognise that no country in our region by itself can guarantee its own or regional security in its widest sense. This must be part of a coordinated effort by all countries in the region, big and small.

We therefore work very closely with our ally and neighbour, Australia, on a range of initiatives to improve growth and stability in the Asia Pacific region. The strong relationship between Australia and New Zealand is key to regional cooperation in our neighbourhood.

Cooperation to enhance security in the South Pacific through the Regional Assistance Mission to the Solomon Islands is a clear example. In 2003 the Solomon Islands faced political, economic and social collapse and was close to being in a state of anarchy. Its Government invited a regional force, made up of military and police from New Zealand, Australia, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Fiji, Tonga, the Cook Islands, Kiribati and Vanuatu, to help re-establish the rule of law.

This intervention has been successful and the security situation restored there. The focus is now on rehabilitating the Solomons’ economy, and the law and order and justice sectors.

There are a range of other initiatives underway to help our neighbours manage risks in the new security environment. New Zealand has established a Pacific Security Fund to finance projects addressing security threats in Pacific Island countries.

Current projects include providing airport x-ray equipment, and training on ports and airport security and customs procedures. The fund has also paid for New Zealand legal drafters to help small countries put legislation in place to comply with new international standards, such as those imposed by UN Security Council counterterrorism resolutions.

New Zealand is also currently Chair of the Pacific Islands Forum, which has become the pre-eminent political body for the Pacific region.

Last year’s Leaders’ Meeting in Auckland was a watershed for the Forum, with leaders agreeing to establish the most wide ranging review of the organisation since its founding over 30 years ago. This reflected an acceptance by Leaders of the need to look at better organising their regional institutions to confront new challenges, as individual nation states but also collectively.

New Zealand has overseen this review process, which culminated in a special meeting of 15 Forum Leaders in Auckland yesterday to consider a report by an Eminent Persons’ Group on ways to enhance regional cooperation and integration.

Leaders have agreed to greater cooperation, common structures and pooled resources to address regional needs. This includes in the areas of transport, information technology, security, customs, increased trade facilitation, judicial and public administration, security and financial systems, processes for meeting international legal demands, air traffic control, and regional law enforcement.

In conclusion, I have sought through my comments today to demonstrate how, despite the constraints imposed by our size and geographic location New Zealand plays an active and constructive role in improving growth and stability in our home region, in the Asia Pacific more broadly, and internationally.

Thank you for the important role the Asia Society plays in promoting understanding of and contact with the Asia Pacific region. Thank you also once again for the opportunity to address you.