Continuing New Zealand's foreign policy legacy: Chris Hipkins provides a survey of his government's approach to and achievements in the international sphere.

AuthorHipkins, Chris

I want to talk about New Zealand's approach to a more unpredictable and complex world and set out how our government is acting to protect and advance the safety and security of New Zealand and New Zealanders. And I want to do that by expanding on recent international engagements and share some of the observations I have from them.

I started as prime minister just over six months ago, at a time of significant strain, both domestically and internationally. The Covid-19 years had a chilling effect on global systems of commerce and diplomacy and as they thawed cracks emerged everywhere. The greatest global health emergency since the 1918 influenza pandemic was followed by the greatest global economic shock since the great depression. Russia's illegal invasion of Ukraine sparked a global energy price shock of a level not seen since the oil crisis of the 1970s. It has also had a major impact on global food supplies, and contributed significantly to global inflationary pressures we are seeing around the world.

Meanwhile diplomacy was largely happening by zoom, and it often felt like the mute button was still on. The anxiety caused by Covid and border closures increased domestic tensions. Globally we have seen a rise in political polarisation, a rise in more nationalist posturing and a move away from political rationalism towards the fringe, often spurred along by mis- and dis-information. Anyway, that is a long way of saying it was a rather interesting time for a boy from the Hutt.

It certainly has been an interesting six months in the job so far. Although only in the role a short time, I have been focused on playing my part to strengthen and enhance the range of the existing relationships New Zealand holds and to advance our trade opportunities. I firmly believe that in an increasingly volatile world, shoring-up and strengthening our closest relationships is key to our economic prosperity, enhancing our national security and promoting domestic harmony. So, I am sorry to let down anyone expecting me to set out a radical departure in our foreign policy.

If anything, my approach in the international sphere is not that dissimilar to my priorities at home--getting back to basics and dealing with the bread and butter issues in front of us. In foreign policy terms, it means making sure that we have greater economic resilience across our trade markets in a time of global uncertainty.

The more that I have been in the role, the more I have seen first-hand the enormous benefits of our independent foreign policy and our role as an honest broker, and the importance of our close relationships in enhancing our prosperity and security. It is important to stress at this point, independent does not mean neutral. As a country, we may be small, but we are not bystanders. We chart our own course, with decisions that are in our national interest.

I want to start by reviewing some of those relationships and the enhancements we have made this year. My first overseas trip as prime minister was a flying visit to Australia to meet with Prime Minister Anthony Albanese. Relationships matter. In both Australia and Albanese, New Zealand has a close friend and ally.

Special anniversaries

This year marks a number of special anniversaries in the trans-Tasman relationship: 40 years of Closer Economic Relations, the 50th anniversary of the trans-Tasman travel arrangement and 80 years of diplomatic relationships. I believe the trans-Tasman relationship is the strongest it has been in decades. In particular, for New Zealand the acknowledgment by the Australian government of the corrosiveness of the 501 deportation issue and the establishment of a pathway to citizenship for New Zealanders in Australia were historic breakthroughs that successive New Zealand governments had sought progress on.

For some time these issues had been placing a strain on an otherwise strong relationship. But those tensions dissipated at the citizenship ceremony I attended in Brisbane just before Anzac Day. Australia opened its arms to the hard working and law-abiding New Zealanders who have chosen to call Australia home. It was a special moment and it tightened the bonds between our two countries, and we decided to celebrate via our countries' shared tradition of a barbecue. I am proud of what Prime Minister Albanese and I have achieved together just this year, and there is more we want to do.

We also work closely with our longstanding friend and partner the United States. That country has long been pivotal to setting up and maintaining the system of international rules and norms that helps keep New Zealanders and our interests safe. It was great to meet with Secretary of State Anthony Blinken earlier this year, and, of course, Jacinda Ardern met President Biden in the White House late last year. In those meetings, we welcomed the increased US engagement in the Pacific and the wider Indo-Pacific region.

For our part, we are actively engaged in processes such as the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework for Prosperity, a next-generation regional trade and investment initiative from the Biden administration. We are hopeful this will open up greater opportunities for economic engagement between our two countries and the region as a whole.

Trade opportunities

When I announced my schedule for overseas travel, I said trade would be at the forefront of my agenda. Expanding trade opportunities for New Zealand exporters is central to the government's economic recovery plan. Often...

To continue reading

Request your trial

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT