New Zealand and Mexico: Partners in the New Pacific: Brian Lynch Looks to a Closer Relationship between New Zealand and Mexico

Article excerpt

Both New Zealand and Mexico have been transformed in the past few decades, politically, economically and in the international connections they have formed beyond their borders.

Some facts of geography are unalterable. Mexico is a large country, with a substantial and rapidly growing population. Its size gives it a well-deserved, influential voice on the world stage. It is taken notice of. It is listened to. It is accepted without question when it seeks a leadership role on particular global issues.

For New Zealand such a role comes rarely; never easily and never automatically. It is a remote, isolated landmass. Mexico's long border with the United States is barely one-third of the distance between the two countries. You would have to swim half the length of the US-Mexican border to reach the nearest significant country to New Zealand, its neighbour Australia.

It is not that New Zealand is insignificant in size. It is about as large as Colorado, Japan, or Great Britain. But that is one-tenth or less of the size of Mexico. And there are only 4 million New Zealanders. The stark reality for New Zealand is that if you represent 0.21 per cent of the world's population, and are responsible for a mere 0.29 per cent of global trade, not too many others feel it is prudent to step aside if they see New Zealand approaching.

So, if New Zealand wants to be noticed and listened to in global forums, to punch above its weight, the only sure course is to be quick on its feet, to keep up with the play, and to put substantial resources into building ties with an expanding network of bilateral and regional relationships. That applies most notably in the Asia-Pacific region, where new Zealand's destiny most certainly lies.

As New Zealanders survey the world outside, they have ten current focal points of interest:

* Australia's view of its external interests and priorities.

* Instability, in the South Pacific

* East Asian interaction

* China's emergence

* Tension on the Korean peninsula

* The new Russia

* EU enlargement

* United States--the sole superpower

* Global trade negotiations

* Latin America's gathering strengths. So where does the Mexico-New Zealand connection fit into that mix? From one standpoint, it is overwhelmingly obvious that strong forces are drawing each country to a northern focus, Mexicans to the United States and Canada, New Zealanders towards East and South-east Asia.

Underlying strength

That trend does not mean we can afford to take the New Zealand-Mexican bilateral relationship lightly. Despite their main preoccupations being in other directions, there is much underlying strength already in place between the two countries that presents a solid base for moving forward.

* They have had diplomatic relations for nearly 32 years and a physical presence through resident embassies, for much of that time.

* There is an existing matrix of agreements to work together in a variety of fields--science and technology, trade an investment, trade promotion, air services. Both operate visa waivers agreements. Agreements on double taxation and working holidays are under consideration.

* There are regular, high-level visits of senior politicians.

* Under our present government's Latin American Strategy assistance has been given to enable academic and cultural exchanges, and to support research co-operation.

* New Zealand and Mexico share like-minded positions on issues as diverse as disarmament, human rights, Iraq, whaling, the WTO, UN reform, and the role of regional forums such as APEC and ABAC.

Turning to New Zealand export sector, the New Zealand horticulture and meat industries have the ambition to do much better in the Mexican marketplace. Under Mexico's present tariff regimes, it is difficult for them to do so. …