Strong international relationships have always been important to New Zealand, given that we are small, isolated and rely heavily on export earnings.
If anything, it’s now more important than ever that we maintain those good relationships. New Zealand now trades with more than 180 nations, and about 30% of our national income and employment comes directly from exports of goods and services.
Every day, around the world, governments and businesses make decisions that can impact on New Zealand. The job of our diplomats is to plug in to those decision-makers and try to influence their decisions to our advantage.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade conducts the government’s business with foreign countries and their governments, and with international organisations. The Ministry is ultimately responsible for securing the best possible advantage for New Zealand from decisions made overseas that affect us.
Our diplomatic work aims to protect and improve access for New Zealand goods and services into overseas markets. We support organisations and processes in the international system that make the world safer and more stable. We’re also building our capacity to cope with overseas emergencies involving New Zealanders, following the tragic bombing in Bali last October.
Much of this work happens behind the scenes, at many different levels. At the multi-country (multilateral) level, New Zealand works hard at the World Trade Organisation to secure fairer international trading rules. Mike Moore, a former New Zealand Prime Minister, is the immediate past WTO Director General. We strongly support the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) , which we chaired in 1999.
New Zealand was a founder member of the United Nations, and has been described by UN Secretary General Kofi Annan as “an active and exemplary member state.” New Zealand is an active member of the Commonwealth, which currently has a New Zealand Secretary-General, Don McKinnon.
We support the international rule of law, through the development of the International Criminal Court. We contribute to processes that set global standards where our interests are at stake, such as the environment, human rights, disarmament, people smuggling, trans-national crime and biosecurity threats.
At the country-to-country (bilateral) level, New Zealand this year is celebrating the 20th anniversary of one of the world’s most successful free trade agreements, the Closer Economic Relations (CER) pact with Australia. Two-way trade has more than doubled since the agreement was signed, and Australia is now far and away New Zealand’s largest export market.
More recently, New Zealand and Singapore have signed a Closer Economic Partnership Agreement, and other agreements are being explored with Chile, Singapore, Mexico, and the United States.
New Zealand’s diplomats work closely with our exporters to help them negotiate their way through ‘red tape’ obstacles to trade, such as customs inspections, phyto-sanitary requirements and other border controls.
Our diplomats also provide advice and assistance to New Zealanders in distress overseas. Our consular assistance service dealt with its biggest test ever with the Bali bombing, when we found ourselves having to locate more than a thousand New Zealanders reported missing by friends and relatives.
Over the years, New Zealand has shown that, despite its small size, it can make a difference on the world stage. This was shown, for example, during our recent term on the UN Security Council, our brokering of the Bougainville Peace Process, our chairing of APEC, our peace-keeping role in East Timor, and in our successful dispute settlements at the WTO.
These successes are a tribute to the effectiveness of our diplomatic service, which is relatively small. The Ministry employs just 600 New Zealand staff, in Wellington and at 47 overseas posts. Our staff work closely with other New Zealand government agencies, such as Trade NZ and the NZ Immigration Service, and with private organisations in promoting New Zealand’s interests overseas. Our posts are supplemented by a network of 42 honorary consuls in 32 countries, local businesspeople who look after New Zealand’s interests in their cities.
Find out more!
For more information on the Ministry of Foreigh Affiars and Trade, check our website.