Academic journal article New Zealand International Review

Engaging with an Uncertain World: Jacinda Ardern Gives an Outline of Her Government's Approach to International Affairs

Academic journal article New Zealand International Review

Engaging with an Uncertain World: Jacinda Ardern Gives an Outline of Her Government's Approach to International Affairs

Article excerpt

This is my first formal comment on issues relating to international relations, but not my first encounter with them. In fact, the relevance and importance of our place in the world, and the clues to navigating such significant global disruption, have always started at home. I spent some of my early childhood during the 1980s in a small town in the Bay of Plenty called Murupara, before moving to the dairy-farming town of Morrinsville. It would be easy to feel isolated from the world, impervious to what was happening around you. But the size of the town has rarely isolated anyone from the reverberations of international events. The removal of tariff protections right through to the 1987 stock exchange crash all had their impact. And just as globalisation has been felt through the past few decades, so too will the effects of the next industrial revolution and the changing nature of work.

I raise this not as an attempt to be a futurist, but because we ignore the interaction of global developments on our domestic population at our peril. Overseas experience, and our own, tells us that if we want to retain the values of being outward looking, engaged in global institutions, welcoming of trade and direct investment, we must build the social license for that. We are not alone in that thinking. The last APEC meeting in Vietnam, for instance, had a strong focus on creating greater inclusiveness around the trade agenda. We want to take that a step further.

Trade will always be an essential part of our engagement with other countries. Better market access for our exporters and growing New Zealand businesses internationally are critical parts of our economic strategy. But how we develop and pursue that trade agenda also matters. The Comprehensive and Progressive TransPacific Partnership, for instance, will deliver benefits to the economy of up to $4 billion a year, but we had to fight hard to carve out our investor screening from investor-state investment disputes clauses and to also preserve our right to regulate the purchase of residential homes by foreign buyers.

The experience of watching the early interactions of the TPP and being part of the final negotiations taught me a lot. It reaffirmed my belief that trade has the ability to support sustainable, productive and inclusive growth if that is the agenda you enter negotiations with. That is why you will see us establish a different framework for trade negotiations, one where we more openly pursue the interests of our regions, small and medium-sized enterprises, Maori and women.

Open approach

We are also focused on taking a more open and consultative approach. Not only is it important that New Zealanders feel that open trade with the world delivers more benefits than harm, but also that has to be the reality too. But this will be just one of the possible points of difference that will be apparent in our approach to international issues.

Being a child of the 1980s affected me in many ways (and unfortunately there are photos to prove it) and that included international events. Rather than just reading about the impact of apartheid in South Africa, for instance, or nuclear testing in the Pacific, I saw instead each of these issues through the lens of our response. They were not history lessons, they were lessons in our values, what mattered to us, and evidence that our size bore no relation to the impact our voice could have.

I want the next generation to see that too, and there are two areas in particular where that feels important. The first relates to the on-going threat of nuclear weapons. The pursuit of disarmament is as vital today as it was when Norman Kirk and David Lange proclaimed New Zealand's opposition to nuclear weapons and nuclear testing in the Pacific. In a modern context, the greatest challenge comes from North Korea, situated right here in our region. At a time when risks to global peace and security are growing and the rules-based system is under such pressure, we must recommit ourselves to the cause of non-proliferation and disarmament, and to the norms and rules that support those endeavours. …

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