It’s great to be here today. Can I first of all acknowledge the Right Honourable Sir Anand Satyanand for that generous welcome, and also Melanie Thornton of the New Zealand Institute of International Affairs and the whole team there for hosting this event today here in Parliament.

Can I acknowledge my parliamentary colleagues here today – in particular our international affairs experts Todd McClay, Mark Mitchell, Gerry Brownlee, Tim Macindoe, Simon O’Connor and Chris Penk.

I would like to welcome all the Ambassadors, High Commissioners, and representatives from embassies, high commissions and missions from around the world here today. We are delighted to have you with us and appreciate you taking the time to be here.

And to our panellists – Charles Finny, Tracey Epps, John Martin and Anna Powles – thank you for taking the time to help us today with your expertise. I look forward to hearing your contributions later on.

As you may be aware, National is currently running the ruler over all of our policies. This year we are launching our discussion documents, phase two in our policy development.

We’re focused on being a constructive and hardworking Opposition, holding the Government to account and putting forward ideas to improve the lives of New Zealanders.

Today we are launching National’s International Relations Discussion Document.  It covers our approach to Foreign Affairs, Defence, Security, Trade, and Overseas Development Assistance.

Foreign Affairs

It is tempting, as a small country, to look at the geopolitical and trade tension between the great powers, conclude that there is little we can do to affect the global environment, take fright and duck for cover.

As Fran O’Sullivan noted in her Herald column last week, the risks and threats of a prolonged trade war between the United States and China “will have huge ramifications for New Zealand business, the economy and global harmony”. 

The risks and threats are real, but as a country we must look beyond them. Where there is uncertainty we mitigate by doing what New Zealanders expect us to do. We just have to confidently roll up our sleeves and seek out new opportunities.

I am unapologetically optimistic about what New Zealanders can continue to achieve on the world stage, and what the Government can do to represent our interests.

Every day, New Zealanders seek out opportunities to travel, work, and play in every corner of the globe. The New Zealand passport is among the most powerful in the world. Our reputation as honest, friendly, engaging, unthreatening people carries over to our privileged position on the world stage.

We have fought hard for this position, and we must work hard as a country to maintain it.

One of the features of New Zealand's foreign policy is its consistency. We have always preached the virtues of democracy, human rights, a liberal trading system, the rule of law, and a robust multilateral rules-based order as the best mechanism to promote peace, prosperity and security.

There has been broad consensus between the two major political parties on these values. In turn, our international partners generally know what we will say. We will stand against aggression. We will aim for global collaboration on issues that can only be advanced globally.  We will push for free and fair trade rules.

Those values are rooted in our country's long history of unbroken democracy, embrace of political and economic freedoms, tolerance, a staunch defence of fundamental human rights, and a recognition of the need to provide security and safety to our people at home and abroad.

Our friends, partners, and allies need to know where we stand. And so do New Zealanders.

National's positioning on international relations issues is anchored in our values. We don't need to consult with ourselves for days and weeks to determine our position on Russia's aggression on Ukraine. We don't need to pause and think about our response to Syria's use of chemical weapons against its own people. We don't need to anguish over whether we recognise the illegitimate re-election of Nicolas Maduro in Venezuela. These are reflexive positions that the Government should be able to speak out on immediately.

International relations is not a great game. It is not a subtle art of hoodwinking competitors and saying as little as possible. It is not a shadow-dance. In its most simple form, it is about achieving greater security, prosperity, and benefits for New Zealanders. It is about engaging with like-minded countries to focus on mutually positive outcomes. It is about speaking out for, and acting on, the values and concerns of New Zealanders.

We believe that as a Government we can and should demystify international relations. Our foreign policy interests are straightforward. It is up to Government to constantly articulate what our interests are, and what we are doing to deliver gains for New Zealanders.

The balancing and prioritising of competing interests is the basis of any effective foreign policy.

We acknowledge that as a political party, and when in Government, we need to continue to make the case with New Zealanders for our economic and diplomatic relations with other countries. 

And we also have to be much clearer with our friends, allies and partners on where we stand.

There have been recent examples where the present Government has not delivered a clear position to our friends and partners. I will not dwell on those, except to say that we must continue to use foreign policy as a vehicle to improve the opportunities for New Zealanders, and must continue to anchor our policy positions in our values. We must be clear about those positions. 

If New Zealanders do not understand our interests, then we cannot expect our friends and partners to understand them.

And if our positions are confused, as long as we are explaining and clarifying those confusions, then we are not advancing our relationships. We do not have the luxury of having Washington, Beijing, Canberra or London waiting on the end of the line until we’ve decided what it is we want to say.

Greater Engagement

We should be seeing more information, debate and dialogue in our country about our international activities.

We’ve shown how this could be done. We launched roadshows around the country to discuss the text of the TPP and Trade Agenda 2030 and we opened Parliament for debate on the deployment of troops to Iraq.

This dialogue is a necessary part of our democratic system and helps to bring New Zealanders with us as we act internationally.

We must also be prepared to stand against those who would seek to undermine these values.

Over the past few years, we have seen the emergence of new threats to our freedoms and liberties.

This is why National is proposing to pass legislation empowering New Zealand to autonomously sanction organisations when the United Nations is unable or unwilling to do so.

For too long, New Zealand has lacked the ability to act autonomously in defence of democracy, freedom and human rights.

The previous National Government introduced legislation to empower New Zealand to sanction those who seek to undermine these principles.

That legislation should be passed as a priority to allow us to be an active player in condemning actions and aggressions that seek to make our world a less peaceful or tolerant place.


New Zealand has played a leading role in the World Trade Organisation, and led the world in developing strong bilateral and plurilateral free trade rules.

This trade architecture facilitates hundreds of thousands of jobs across our country, brings about higher incomes for everyday Kiwis, and ensures our economy remains resilient in the face of global and domestic financial movements.

The Trans-Pacific Partnership is a world class trade deal. It is identical to the revised TPP in all but a few small areas. Tariff reductions and market access are identical between the two agreements. They will deliver billions of dollars to our economy, create jobs, give New Zealanders access to new markets, upholds labour and environmental standards, and maintains our right to regulate in the national interest.

But it is not sufficient for governments to sit on their laurels. We must be ambitious and strive to break new ground when it comes to trade.

This is why National is committed to pursuing an ambitious trade agenda.

We want to see our relationships with our core partners like Australia and Singapore deepen and grow.

We will focus on forging new partnerships. National wants to see new agreements pursued in South America, the Middle East, Asia, Africa and Europe.

The United States of America is already an important partner for New Zealand. They are our fourth largest trading partner and one of our most important partners for foreign investment.  

Our relationship has been forged in a shared history of defending a common set of values. Our people have sacrificed together, worked together, and traded together.

The next National Government will commit to launching, negotiating, and concluding a comprehensive Free Trade Agreement with the United States. We are convinced that the architecture of such an FTA already exist in the Trans Pacific Partnership. It does not have to be a drawn-out negotiation. But we do have to win Washington's trust and attention, and we do have to have the political will to see it through. 

We are also committed, in Government, to continuing to deepen and broaden our economic relationship with China. According to the World Bank, China’s economic rise over the last 40 years has lifted 850 million people out of poverty. In doing so it has created the fastest-growing middle-class in human history. 

New Zealand’s resilience through economic shocks such as the GFC in 2008 has largely been dependent on supplying tradeable goods to this important market. 

This is why we have set a goal of doubling our two-way trade with China by 2030.

Security and defence

We also must acknowledge that, in this changing world, new threats against our values and our security are emerging.

The tragedy of Christchurch shows we must be vigilant in protecting our values of tolerance and freedom at home. We must ensure our security services are able to provide for the safety for all New Zealanders.

We are not immune from the emerging ideologies of terror, violence and hate that we have seen in this world. We must continue to stand with the global community to battle terror and to ensure the safety of our people across the world to live, pray, work and travel is secured.  


New Zealand is committed to working in our Pacific region and across the world to help support the development of countries. This is why we invest in development programmes through our Official Development Assistance.

But, like all our actions overseas, we must ensure what we are investing in reflects the values of New Zealand.

Our Official Development Assistance is a significant contribution from the taxpayer, so we need to ensure we are focusing on delivering value for money in the investments we make, not simply focusing on throwing money at problems.

We want to ensure our development assistance continues to deliver results to our partners around the world and see an enhanced role for our companies and NGOs to be involved in that process.

In climate change, you'll see that in the document as well. We're proud of the bipartisan approach we are taking to that issue as we seek to work with the Government in the interests of New Zealand and from a values based perspective.


Today is a chance to hear your thoughts on our proposals.

What could go further, or what needs more development.

We know international affairs is important and we want to ensure all New Zealanders are benefitting from our actions overseas.

So thank you for coming today and participating in our panel discussion. We’re looking forward to hearing your feedback and developing our policy further so that come election 2020, we’ll be ready to forge a stronger path for New Zealand internationally.


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