New Zealand Positions Itself as Important Diplomatic Player

Richard Mann, New Zealand’s ambassador to Korea, in Seoul on Nov. 23, 2010. (Asia Society Korea Center)

SEOUL, November 23, 2010 – Beyond beautiful natural landscapes, New Zealand is rich with a well-educated population, a vibrant political system, and is poised to become an important player in international diplomacy, according to Richard Mann, New Zealand’s ambassador to Korea.

Speaking at a luncheon at Asia Society Seoul, Mann said that New Zealand is a modern and innovative country underpinned by a high quality education system that emphasizes applied knowledge and practicality.

Since capturing international attention for its sweeping public sector reforms in the 1990s, New Zealand's parliamentary democracy has led the way in environmental policy-making, becoming the first nation to establish a carbon trading emissions scheme.

But New Zealand's position at the vanguard has not always been a comfortable one. The landmark declaration to remain a nuclear-free state in the 1980s was derided by some at the time, but has now come to be accepted and respected. In relations with China, New Zealand was among the first to recognize it as a market economy, entering into and concluding free trade agreement negotiations before other states, a move that sparked some controversy.

“New Zealand likes to be an early bird,” said Mann.

Mann stated that diplomatically New Zealand has niche skills, and is a committed regionalist and a capable internationalist. As a small state with a population of only 4 million, though, New Zealand seeks collaboration with other small states such as Costa Rica, Norway, Ireland, and Singapore that together are able to voice their interests and exert some geo-political influence.

Mann concluded by saying that New Zealand and South Korea are natural coalition partners as they both seek to establish themselves as reliable and relevant partners in bilateral discussions and regional forums such as APEC and ASEAN.