Academic journal article New Zealand International Review

Building Peace through Credible Defence

Academic journal article New Zealand International Review

Building Peace through Credible Defence

Article excerpt

New Zealand's strategic interests are global. Its economic well-being is dependent on overseas trade. The Asia-Pacific region is critical, generating 75 per cent of export income and is the source of 73 per cent of imports. Europe, New Zealand's other major market, generates 17 per cent of exports and 23 per cent of imports. Oil imports from the Middle East, while forming only a minor component of all imports, are crucial to New Zealand's economy.(1) The bulk of this trade in volume (99 per cent) and value (90 per cent) travels on the sea.(2) Over time dynamic economic growth of the Asia-Pacific region will make this region even more important to New Zealand. The World Bank estimates that by 2000 East Asia alone will be responsible for half the growth in the world economy. New Zealand's trade patterns will follow the trends set in the dynamic markets of the Asia-Pacific region. Its trade depends on the maintenance of international security, especially in the Asia-Pacific region as well as in Europe and the Middle East. Because of its overwhelming importance to New Zealand's well-being, the security of the Asia-Pacific region should assume the highest strategic priority.

The linkage between trade and security is indivisible; one cannot exist without the other. It is vital to New Zealand's interests that its markets and trade routes remain secure. The consequences for the New Zealand economy of interference to its shipping lanes would be significant. Detours or delays around trouble spots raise shipping costs, increasing costs of exports (and imports) and reducing competitiveness. De-stabilisation of a market could bring our trade with it to a standstill.

New Zealand has a continuing interest in participating in multilateral efforts to build global security, not only in the conventional military sphere but also in fields such as the control of weapons of mass destruction, environmental security, and human rights. But if detractors can show that New Zealand is not serious about conventional defence, then Wellington's credibility on these security issues will be undermined. Without a credible defence posture New Zealand will struggle to create a credible foreign policy.

The United Nations remains important to New Zealand's security. Multilateralism creates the rule based system that enables small states like New Zealand to bring to bear their limited influence to protect and promote interests on international issues such as the law of the sea. But the United Nations, while making remarkable contributions to the restoration of peace within and between states torn with conflict, lacks the capacity to maintain international order. The South Pacific matters to New Zealand for reasons of proximity, and close political and historical ties. But our most important interests are not at stake in the South Pacific.

Main trend

The main trend of significant interest within New Zealand is the growing importance of controlling our resources in and under the sea. New Zealand's ratification of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea obliges Wellington `to determine the outer limits of our continental shelf beyond the exclusive economic zone'.(3) New Zealand will want to maintain control of what is unmistakably its own, and will need to maintain a presence -- possession being nine-tenths of the law -- on claims that may be disputed by other states or interests. This principle applies in the Antarctic, the site of New Zealand's only land claim, a claim not recognised by others including the United States.(4)

Liberals argue that high levels of international trade and investment lower the likelihood of wars. `[S]tates would rather trade than invade', as Copeland puts it.(5) But history shows that the assumption that economic interdependence creates such high levels of mutual self-interest that states will be persuaded to avoid war by calculations of economic self interest is not always justified. …

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