Academic journal article New Zealand International Review

Vision 2025: Delivering Foreign Policy in Challenging Times: Murray McCully Outlines the Government's Response to the New Requirements Confronting the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade over the Next Few Years

Academic journal article New Zealand International Review

Vision 2025: Delivering Foreign Policy in Challenging Times: Murray McCully Outlines the Government's Response to the New Requirements Confronting the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade over the Next Few Years

Article excerpt

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New Zealand is a trading nation. It has a huge stake in ensuring its relationships with its trading partners, negotiating trade agreements and supporting arrangements that keep the world safe for travellers and trade. These requirements alone justify the huge investment in New Zealand's foreign policy establishment. But budget constraints and new international developments have combined to place a strain on the resources available to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade. We must look at new ways of providing the representation New Zealand needs in a changing world. New approaches, too, are needed in the delivery of international aid. The government has resolved to meet these challenges in the years ahead.

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We live in a world that is changing dramatically. We are seeing a shift in power to emerging economies. We also live in times of fiscal restraint. The brutal reality is that if we do not manage change, change will manage us.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade costs New Zealanders around $400 million per year. It has approximately 1300 staff and runs offices in over 50 countries. It also administers over $500 million a year in aid.

For those who are inclined to observe that a $400 million ministry is too great an investment in the conduct of foreign relations, I simply say this: New Zealand is a trading nation. In the year to March 2010 we achieved foreign exchange earnings of $58.9 billion and exported goods to 189 countries. An investment of $400 million a year in the machinery that maintains our relationships with trading partners, negotiates trade agreements, and supports the arrangements that keep the world safe for travellers and trade is not out of place.

But clearly there are fundamental questions that need to be asked about the future shape of the ministry, starting with: where do we wish to be represented, for what purpose and in what way. I should note in passing that my comments this evening are focused exclusively on the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade. There are a number of other external agencies that operate in the same space, most notably New Zealand Trade and Enterprise. While we have achieved some improvements in inter-agency co-operation in recent times, I believe that there are still real efficiency and effectiveness gains to be secured in this area, but that is a topic for another occasion.

We retain representation overseas with a variety of objectives in mind. We have been reminded by events in Japan and in Libya over recent days of the consular role that the ministry plays. New Zealand citizens travelling abroad and the news media at home set high expectations, sometimes very high expectations indeed, of foreign ministry staff. And we do our best to meet all reasonable and practical expectations.

Huge stake

As a smaller, relatively remote country we have a huge stake in international organisations and systems that promote security, stability and fair play, and which underpin principles of democracy, human rights and the rule of law. That requires a certain level of representation abroad, and certain capabilities at home. It is one of the reasons we need to think hard about our role in the Pacific region and about the leadership responsibilities we need to resource.

But the most important objectives under the current government lie in the area of trade. We are a small country that is highly dependent upon our capacity to earn foreign exchange. The Key government has formally communicated to the ministry a view that trade and economic objectives must receive priority. We have also expressed a commitment to lifting exports as a share of GDP from 30 per cent to 40 per cent. So I make no apology for the fact that trade and economic opportunities are at the forefront of our thinking about the future shape of the ministry.

That has huge implications for a ministry that has traditionally been heavily invested in assets in Europe in a world where the balance of trade and economic opportunity has moved sharply towards Asia and where regions like the Gulf states, South America and Africa will be increasingly significant players over the decades ahead. …

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