New Zealand Foreign Policy: The Next Five Years: Winston Peters Reviews New Zealand's Foreign Policy Priorities over the Next Five Years

By Peters, Winston | New Zealand International Review, May-June 2006 | Go to article overview

New Zealand Foreign Policy: The Next Five Years: Winston Peters Reviews New Zealand's Foreign Policy Priorities over the Next Five Years


Peters, Winston, New Zealand International Review


Historically, the broad direction of New Zealand's foreign policy has received bipartisan support. In our recent past almost all foreign affairs legislation presented to Parliament has received near unanimous support. Even with the advent of MMP and a multi-party Parliament there has been a continuation of this general consensus.

The people of New Zealand also have generally supported the main thrust of foreign policy, under successive governments. Indeed it would be fair to say that inherent New Zealand values and unique New Zealand perspectives have been reflected in the formulation and conduct of our foreign policy. And over the years New Zealanders have taken pride in the way we have been active in world affairs in a way that belies our geographical isolation and relatively small size.

Foreign policy is often about responding to international developments that are unforeseen (certainly in their specifics), and over which

we have little control. The terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001 and the Asian tsunami are examples of major events that both required a multi-faceted policy response and changed the environment in which we operated.

This article is not about gazing into a crystal ball. History is full of examples of predictions of future developments in world affairs that turned out to be wide of the mark. Neville Chamberlain's 'peace in our time' comes immediately to mind. But his successor as Prime Minister of Great Britain could also get it wrong. Only a few years before the 'peace in our time' forecast Winston Churchill had said that 'No conceivable quarrel could arise between us and Japan'.

But with reasonable confidence we can highlight in 2006 a number of overarching trends that are likely to continue. These include the inter-linked phenomena that are known as 'globalisation' (and, related to this, the dynamism of the Asia-Pacific region), the persistence of international security and development challenges, and uncertain progress towards making multilateral institutions more effective.

Globalisation is one of those buzzwords that has become so widely used it is in danger of losing its usefulness. However, we have yet to come up with a better word.

Beyond doubt the rapid development of information and communications technology, and the global expansion of economic activity and linkages, has had both positive and negative effects. For New Zealand globalisation has had a demonstrable effect on our economy, our standard of living, and the make up of our society.

There is also the well-documented downside to globalisation. In our own neighbourhood Pacific Islands countries have had to contend with social pressures resulting from much more contact with the outside world, and are challenged by issues of scale and distance. These are real constraints in an inter-linked and increasingly competitive world.

The East Asian region has benefited from globalisation and experienced a sustained period of rapid economic expansion, with only occasional set-backs. The dynamism of Asia is evident not just in economic terms. We have witnessed the emergence of a region that is increasingly confident and outward looking.

High stakes

The stakes for New Zealand, as it has sought to deepen its political and economic engagement with Asia, have been high. While it may be geographically distant from the centres of the worst conflict and human suffering, New Zealand has little choice but to play its part in responding to pressing security and development challenges in other parts of the world.

Over time the nature of these challenges has changed dramatically. It was not too long ago that we witnessed the dramatic consequences (again, both positive and negative) of the end of the phase of super-power rivalry known as the Cold War. Today we confront the reality that terrorism and the threat posed by proliferation of weapons of mass destruction require concerted international responses. …

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