Foreign Minister Murray McCully spoke to the US-NZ Pacific Partnership forum yesterday setting the scene with a speech focused on bilateralism.
Thank you for being here.
It’s great to be back in Washington, and to see so many friends of New Zealand here today.
I attended the first of these forums in April 2006 and each subsequent gathering.
I want to reflect briefly on how the role of this Forum has changed, just as the NZ/US relationship has changed and continues to change.
In thanking all of those who have contributed to the success and evolution of this gathering over the past seven years, it is only honest to observe that the Forum was created at a time when the formal relationship between our two countries was suboptimal.
The Forum in 2006 was a vehicle to supplement it.
In particular I want to thank our American friends who gave up their time and spent their capital in order to invest in the NZ/US relationship.
And I want to acknowledge the significant role the Forum has played in achieving the substantial transition in NZ/US relations that has occurred in recent years.
We live in a different world in 2013.
Formal relations between our two countries are excellent.
We have found a new normal.
Last year we hosted 100 marines in New Zealand to thank the US for your support at a critical time in World War II and to engage in several weeks of exercises.
Joint exercises are now routine.
And this month, for the first time in nearly 30 years, a New Zealand Navy vessel will visit a US military port in Guam – another milestone in the normalisation of that aspect of NZ/US relations.
So unlike some previous occasions, I do not intend to talk at length about the relationship.
Just as couples tend to spend a good deal of time talking about their relationship when they have issues, I do not intend to do so, because we do not have issues.
Just as the formal relationship is now one in which we spend our time talking about the opportunities to work together and add value, so too must the role of this Forum change.
That is especially true as we stand at the threshold of TPP, as my colleague Tim Groser will discuss tomorrow.
So I want to reflect very briefly on a few of New Zealand’s wider foreign policy concerns and focus on how our two countries are adding value, and can continue to add value, by working together.
First I want to identify, especially for American friends, just how much New Zealand has changed in the seven years since this Forum first met in 2006.
For all of our history we have regarded our geography – far away from our traditional markets in Europe – as our major strategic disadvantage.
Now we live in the Asia Pacific Century and our geography, on the rim of Asia, has become our major strategic advantage.
Seven years ago our exports to China were less than NZ$2 billion, well behind Australia and the US.
Today, our exports to China top NZ$7 billion, and in the first quarter of 2013 they actually passed, temporarily I am sure, exports to our largest market, Australia.
In South East Asia our exports are nearly NZ$4.5 billion a year – about the same as the US, but rising sharply from NZ$2.9 billion in 2006.
In both cases, China and ASEAN, high quality FTAs have provided the impetus.
But the improvements in trade and economic relations have also been mirrored by a boost to diplomatic relations, and in education, tourism, cultural and sporting exchanges.
We invest heavily in our diplomatic relations in the region and are unashamedly proud of our good relationships.
In that sense I should acknowledge that being small certainly helps – but to the word small I hope we could add others, like professional, respectful, constructive and friendly.
I know that some will ask whether success in our relationship with China has been at the cost of our commitment to core values like democracy and human rights, or to important matters like the contested South China Sea.
I want to be clear that we do not try to paper over differences in our perspectives on such issues.
We discuss them openly and honestly – but respectfully and constructively.
Where we have different methods of working, we try to understand each other.
That is the reason we now partner with China in an aid project in the Pacific, and have agreed to discuss wider development cooperation.
We have been extremely supportive of the US decision in recent years to invest more heavily in Asia, and especially the decision to join the regional conversations at the East Asia Summit.
And we believe the decisions we have both made to become more invested in Asia provide a range of new opportunities for close cooperation.
This sort of cooperation will be a key feature of my meeting with Secretary Kerry today, as it will be at the NZ/US Strategic Dialogue among senior officials later this week.
We believe that closer US engagement in Asia, including through TPP, will make the region both more prosperous and more secure.
Elsewhere in the world there are also opportunities for us to add value through greater cooperation.
The existing high level of cooperation in the Pacific, in South East Asia, in Afghanistan, in Antarctica and the Ross Sea, is well known to this audience.
But I hope the enhanced dialogue we now have will see us cooperate in new places.
Here I do not mean to gloss over the obvious differences in size and weight.
I want to acknowledge the obvious but often unstated fact that the world so frequently expects the US as the only global superpower to carry the cost, both in cash and in casualties, of preserving stability and security in the trouble spots of the world.
But just as there are so many things that only the US can do because you are large and powerful, there are others that countries like New Zealand can do only because we are not.
I take this opportunity to commend Secretary Kerry for the significant attention he has brought to the Middle East Peace Process.
New Zealand has, with others, been calling for the strongest US leadership on this matter, as the window for a two-state solution draws dangerously more closed.
But we are not asking you to do it alone.
We all have a huge stake in defusing the dispute that carries the seeds of wider conflict in the region and beyond.
New Zealand has been engaged in the MFO, maintaining peace in the Sinai for over 30 years, and one of our generals is currently in command.
We are engaged in a demining project on the West Bank, because we have worked hard to maintain the trust of both Israelis and Palestinians.
We even provide rugby coaching to teams in both Jerusalem and Ramallah.
New Zealand and many other countries want to actively support Secretary Kerry in finding a way to achieve a two-state settlement in the Middle East in the narrow window that is left.
Finally, I turn to our own region, the Pacific.
Making our contribution to maintaining stability and security in a Pacific that suffers significantly at the hands of both the Global Financial Crisis and climate change is a major preoccupation.
The region consumes around 60 per cent of our aid budget and a good deal of diplomatic time and energy.
A leadership role in the Pacific is a key aspect of our international personality, and an essential element of our value proposition to our friends and partners.
Our key objective in recent months has been to move the region from about 5 per cent of electricity generated from renewable means to around 50 per cent in the next five years.
Currently diesel to generate electricity makes up around 10 per cent of the GDP of Pacific countries and around 25 per cent of their total import bills.
In partnership with the EU, we have just hosted a conference of donors to assemble NZ$635 million to support the 40 projects that would move the region close to the 50 per cent mark.
Maintaining security and stability in the region is a responsibility we share especially with our Australian friends.
With partners, we have now completed lengthy commitments in both the Solomon Islands and Timor Leste, with the focus now moving from security to development.
We currently chair the Forum’s Ministerial Contact Group on Fiji.
We visited Suva last month and will visit again in July.
I am confident there will be elections in Fiji in 2014 – the question now being asked is whether they will be free and fair.
We continue to walk the fine line that sees us remaining engaged and supporting the elections process, whilst continuing to ask the questions the international community would expect to be asked about the quality of that process.
This is indeed a complex task, and it is pleasing that our region remains able to deal with such a significant challenge in such a cooperative way.
We have worked very closely with the US over the past two years to complete the US Pacific Tuna Treaty re-negotiation.
We are almost there.
A healthy tuna fishery is arguably the most valuable asset the region currently owns.
Around US$2.8 billion per year of tuna is taken from the EEZs of the 14 Pacific nations.
Around US$200 million finds its way back to the nations that own the resource.
We are working hard to improve these percentages and the US Tuna Treaty will be an important step in that direction.
About US$500 million of tuna a year is taken from the Pacific zone illegally.
The US, in cooperation with Australia, France and New Zealand, plays an important part in improving surveillance and management of the region.
New Zealand greatly values the more prominent US interest in the Pacific Islands.
The attendance of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at the Pacific Islands Forum Leaders’ meeting in the Cook Islands last year was a powerful signal of US engagement in the region.
I look forward to my discussions with Secretary Kerry later this morning, where cooperation in the Pacific features on our agenda, including of course, this year’s Pacific Islands Forum Leaders’ meeting, which will take place in Majuro, in the Marshall Islands, one of the US Compact states.
Ladies and gentlemen, we have come a long way in the seven years since this Forum first met.
With TPP on the horizon there is a long way further to go.
I wish you well in your deliberations today.