New Zealand in the World: Prime Minister John Key Outlines His Government's Approach to International Affairs

By Key, John | New Zealand International Review, November-December 2010 | Go to article overview

New Zealand in the World: Prime Minister John Key Outlines His Government's Approach to International Affairs


Key, John, New Zealand International Review


New Zealand in the world: prime minister John Key outlines his government's approach to international affairs.

I will start by noting that things can change quite quickly at the leadership level in international politics. I have been prime minister of New Zealand a bit less than two years but I am meeting with my third Japanese prime minister, my second US president, my second Australian prime minister, and my second British prime minister. I could go on.

One thing that remains the same is New Zealand's commitment to an independent foreign policy. That was something that Helen Clark spent a lot of time talking about as prime minister and something that our administration has carried on. That said, when you become the government you have to put your own stamp on how you see things, and where you see your major focus of attention.

From our perspective, one of the first things we have done is identify the Pacific as a priority. There are obvious good reasons for that. We have the largest Pacific city in the world. A large part of our population comes from the Pacific. New Zealand along with Australia has always taken a leadership role in trying to help Pacific nations. Specifically we have changed the focus of our aid. Not only are we increasing the overall level of assistance that New Zealand has provided from about $440 million a year to $600 million, but over half of it is going to the Pacific; and it is going to continue to rise. That reflects our view that New Zealand can play an important role in the region, we understand the Pacific well and we can work with our Pacific partners. This time last year I was embarking on a visit to some of our neighbours: Tonga, Samoa, the Cook Islands and Niue. Murray McCully made a similar visit in August.

Next year we are looking forward to hosting the Pacific Forum in New Zealand and to having an opportunity of celebrating its 40th year. There are some great things happening in the Pacific and some real gains being made. One thing that came out of the Pacific Forum in Australia last year was to identify a number of areas where we can work closely together. From Australia and New Zealand's perspective we look to use our economic strength to help the Pacific nations, particularly around their fisheries which is a big resource for them and one that is under-developed. Secondly, we can assist with their over-dependence on oil by developing renewable energies. New Zealand and Australia have tremendous technology in that area and we will help to again make a real difference.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

No dictation

The Cairns Compact showed that we can work with Pacific nations to assist them in relation to their donor programmes. It is not for New Zealand to dictate which countries should or should not donate to Pacific countries, but these are small countries and do not necessarily have a great capacity to deal with lots of different donors. From that perspective we can also work very closely with them.

When one talks about the Pacific we are bound to have a discussion about what is happening in Fiji. It is really in sorrow rather than in anger that we find ourselves in the position we currently are with Fiji. It is fair to say my government has tried to reach out and offer the hand of friendship to Fiji. We want to see democracy restored there. We are working hard to make that happen, and we have offered Fiji whatever support they need to have democracy restored.

It is important to understand what we are doing and what we are not doing. We do not have economic sanctions on Fiji and we have not had them. In fact at the most recent Forum in Vanuatu, New Zealand was leading the charge of those wanting to include Fiji in the PACER Plus trade discussions. The ministerial contact group is going to report to the leaders on the merits or otherwise of including Fiji in PACER. At the moment they are excluded but we think bringing them in makes sense. …

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