Keeping Relationships in Good Repair: Murray McCully Provides an Update on New Zealand's Foreign Policy

By McCully, Murray | New Zealand International Review, July-August 2013 | Go to article overview

Keeping Relationships in Good Repair: Murray McCully Provides an Update on New Zealand's Foreign Policy


McCully, Murray, New Zealand International Review


All New Zealand's important relationships are in good repair. Although those with Australia and the United States are in a quiet period because of impending or recent elections, they will soon bounce back. With the United States there are hopes of a major breakthrough in terms of trade relations. Sino-New Zealand relations are also subdued, but trade is burgeoning. Japan's decision to join the Trans-Pacific Partnership is a welcome change and New Zealand continues to pursue a free trade agreement with South Korea. The government is pressing ahead with plans to strengthen relations in a number of other areas, including Russia, South Asia, Latin America, the Persian Gulf and especially the South Pacific. It is also alive to the potential benefits of closer ties with countries on the African continent.

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I want to use this opportunity to provide a quick review of the status of our relationships and from that base to look forward at some of the issues we will need to confront in the years immediately ahead.

I think I can report that all of our important relationships are in good repair. Starting with our largest and most important relationship, Australia, I can report a continuation of the sort of co-operation that exists only between our two countries. This manifests itself especially strongly in the shared leadership role that we play in the Pacific. New Zealand exports to Australia, which have softened a little in the past two years, remain around the $10 billion mark--well ahead of our other markets.

While federal elections in Australia in September will call for a quieter period in the relationship over the coming months, I have no hesitation in asserting that this unique relationship will re-gather its normal momentum regardless of the election outcome, later this year.

Similarly, there has been a quieter period in our relationship with the United States as the second Obama administration continues to take shape. The relationship with the United States today is a fundamentally different and better one than was evident five years ago.

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I believe the Key government's strategy of removing this relationship from domestic political contention and slowly building trust and confidence has served our interests well. The initial interactions with Secretary of State John Kerry have been extremely positive and I will visit Washington later in May for our first formal talks.

Hopefully we are poised to make a major breakthrough in terms of our trade relations. Our exports to the United States have been bumping around a little over the $4 billion mark for around a decade now. It is heartening to see the level of ambition being brought by the Obama administration to the Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations, which bring the promise of a reinvigorated trade relationship in the immediate future.

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Subdued approach

In China, too, leadership changes have imposed a more subdued approach to the diplomatic relationship over recent months, followed by the highly successful visit by the prime minister in April for his first formal engagement with the new leadership. Five years into the free trade agreement with China, our export figures are now sitting around the $7 billion mark, the result of a period of spectacular growth. We are broadly on track to reach the highly ambitious target of $20 billion of two-way trade by 2015--by which time we are likely to see our exports to China match our exports to Australia. The recent decision to open a new mission in western China alongside our missions in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou is recognition of this spectacular trend.

Maintaining diplomatic relations with Japan has proven to be a livelier matter than I had anticipated. I am now on my sixth Japanese foreign minister. I am very much looking forward to Minister Kishida visiting later in May. …

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Keeping Relationships in Good Repair: Murray McCully Provides an Update on New Zealand's Foreign Policy
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