The case for New Zealand diplomacy.

Author:Barrington, Brook
Position::Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade
 
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Brook Barrington outlines the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade's approach to protecting and advancing New Zealand's interests in a challenging world.

Last year we celebrated the 75th birthday of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, the purpose of which is to act in the world to make New Zealanders safer and more prosperous. It is, therefore, a good time to step back and reflect on New Zealand's response to the increasingly challenging external environment.

The ministry's 'birth' came about as a result of another--exceptionally --challenging time in New Zealand's history. It is tempting then, at this anniversary point, to draw comparisons between the tumultuous times of 1943 and the uncertainties of 2018. But let me start from a different place.

As luck would have it, our nearest neighbour is our closest friend, and the most rapid expansion of the middle class in economic history is occurring in our hemisphere. International counterparts take New Zealand seriously We have a well-deserved reputation for being a constructive, problem-solving and reliable country which others want to have working alongside them. We are embedded in the important institutions of the Asia-Pacific region. Our ideas often get traction, and our influence generally outstrips our size and location.

More broadly, we are seeing--and supporting--some attempts to reinforce global rules in areas such as the Nuclear Weapons Prohibition Treaty and the Paris Agreement on Climate Change. Millions of people continue to be lifted out of poverty and illiteracy. And core elements of the post-war order--the UN machinery, the Bretton Woods institutions, the World Trade Organisation and the disarmament and arms control architecture --remain in place and can (and in some cases must) be reinvigorated.

Indeed, why would any permanent member of the Security Council want to see its authority reduced? Or any major trading nation seriously want to see the collapse of economic openness and the rules which set a level-playing field? If history is any guide then no power can absolutely prevail indefinitely, and both the risen and the rising need to negotiate more often than they might wish.

There is, however, no question that at this moment global power is being contested, that there is significant pressure on the existing international system and many of the principles and rules that underpin it and that pervasive challenges like climate change, unregulated migration and uneven access to the benefits of globalisation are fuelling uncertainty and nationalistic responses. Predictability, one of the rivets of international affairs, is currently sprung. Global resilience has been weakened by rising debt and falling social licence. And in our own hemisphere we are living through an unprecedented period of strategic dynamism.

Never before have the United States, China, Japan and India been major regional powers simultaneously. New organising constructs such as the Belt and Road Initiative and the Free and Open Indo-Pacific are emerging to reflect these realities. And many of the world's potential hot-spots are in a part of the world--North Asia--which lacks the formal architecture used by states to support dialogue, norms and rules. Against this background, the risks for small countries with global interests are acute, and in sands such as these, strong foundations are needed.

New Zealand's values, which are rooted in fairness, as well as its reputation for domestic stability, robust institutions and constructive pragmatism, lie at the heart of its soft power and our diplomacy. Its foreign policy is underpinned by four foundational pillars that might be seen to underpin its foreign policy--rules, architecture, relationships and diversification--in an increasingly challenging external environment. New Zealand must have a clear sense of where its interests lie and which of those interests it should pursue. Its diplomats must be capable of building the relationships with other countries on which trust can be based.

Four pillars

E.H. Carr once observed that a rules-based international order 'cannot be understood independently of the political foundation on which it rests and the political interests which it serves'. But interests derive from values and so the effectiveness of...

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