Why the Pacific way matters for regional security: Nanaia Mahuta outlines the government's approach to foreign policy in a shifting, less stable and more challenging international environment.

AuthorMahuta, Nanaia

I want to set out Aotearoa New Zealand's independent foreign policy and why the Pacific matters for regional security. Indeed, much of the emphasis in foreign policy has been on the impact of Russia's unlawful aggression in Ukraine, tensions in the Indo-Pacific region, North Korea's provocations, internal conflict in Sudan alongside on-going unrest across other parts of the world, increasing economic pressures and the real impacts of global warming. We are indeed living in complex times with greater geo-strategic tensions. It is incumbent on New Zealand to insert its independent foreign policy stance in a manner that aligns to the values and interests we believe safeguard our sense of peace, stability and inclusive economic prosperity.

But first some context against the backdrop of earlier foreign policy speeches I have delivered. Upon becoming foreign minister, I stated that including an indigenous perspective in our foreign policy would enhance and add depth to our diplomatic toolkit--and I believe it has. To illustrate this point, as I have travelled around the world there is so much to share about the Maori indigenous perspective, whether it be with the ASEANs, Europeans, North Americans and Middle East or Latin American friends and partners. Culture, connection, collaboration and commerce can be easily amplified through the indigenous approach to deepen our existing relationships.

And we have tried to ensure that we act in a manner to advance indigenous perspectives. This is evidenced by our approach to including an indigenous segment to our hosting of APEC and the open plurilateral IPETCA (Indigenous Peoples Economic and Trade Cooperation Arrangement), including indigenous chapters in the recently signed UK and EU free trade agreements and engaging in indigenous collaboration agreements to name a few. Our indigenous experience and the Maori worldview (while not the sole exemplar) can offer perspectives on truth and reconciliation, the importance of economic inclusion, educational opportunity, women and youth development, models of self-determination, culture and language revitalisation. This has been met with deep interest and a willingness to share experience with likeminded nation states and indigenous peoples.

China relationship

In a previous 'Taniwha and the Dragon' speech I set out New Zealand's approach to our relationship with China. China is a significant trade and economic partner. During my recent visit I observed that the relationship has matured beyond that of 'firsts' where trade and economics were primary considerations. Now we express our relationship in how we view the international rule of law, the UN Charter, human rights and security matters alongside our people-to-people links and cultural connections that have formed over a number of years. I make the point that the eco-system for the taniwha to survive and thrive is somewhat different to the dragon's--we live in Te Moana nui a Kiwa, the vast blue continent, we are a small nation by comparison and we remain steadfast in protecting our environment, our peaceful way of life and the conditions required for our advancement.

We have a mature relationship with China under-scored by our willingness to continue to engage on the matters where we find common ground and those that are difficult and challenging. Nonetheless, as we defend the international rules, norms and standards that we rely on for peaceful co-existence and shared prosperity, we express our view if these norms are ignored.

We have stayed the course in our approach with China. Being predictable, consistent and respectful does not mean we cannot and should not speak our mind. In fact it compels our small nation to use our voice, with...

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