Since its inception in 1967, ASEAN’s growth trajectory has been nothing short of impressive. The economic, social, and political dimensions within the region have been refined, leveraging on nascent interest from other global players. New Zealand is just one of the players which have established rapport with the monolith that is ASEAN.
The ASEAN-New Zealand bond is not new, with both parties having celebrated 40 years of diplomatic relations in 2015. New Zealand became ASEAN’s dialogue partner in 1975, and along with Australia and Japan, was amongst the first dialogue partners to hold summits with ASEAN in 1977.
The partnership between ASEAN and New Zealand reached a significant milestone with the adoption of the ASEAN-New Zealand Joint Declaration on Comprehensive Partnership for 2015. As a whole, cooperation between ASEAN and New Zealand extends to the political-security domain, besides economic, socio-cultural, and developmental ties.
Trade and investment
The ASEAN-Australia-New Zealand Free Trade Area (AANZFTA), established in 2010, is a comprehensive and single-undertaking free trade agreement that facilitates new opportunities for approximately 663 million peoples of ASEAN, Australia, and New Zealand.
This trifecta has a combined GDP of US$4 trillion as of 2016, with merchandise trade worth a staggering US$60.7 bil. One of the benefits of this initiative is the inclusion of provisions that will aid the temporary movement of business personnel, including intra-corporate transferees and contract service suppliers. Such a move is indicative of ASEAN’s broader involvement with the Oceania region too.
ASEAN-New Zealand trade and economic links have gone from strength to strength. In 1975, bilateral trade between both parties was worth US$133 mil. This amount represents just a week’s worth of trade today, with last year’s total trade with ASEAN close to nearly US$12 bil.
According to the government website Stats NZ, when compared with individual countries, ASEAN was ranked as New Zealand’s fifth largest trade partner for exports and fourth largest for imports over the past three years.
In addition, the AANZFTA targets the elimination of tariffs on 99 percent of exports to pivotal ASEAN markets by 2020, representing approximately US$50 mil. of annual duty savings based on prevailing levels of trade when the agreement was ratified.
Source: Ministry of Foreign Affairs, New Zealand
Matters of defence
In essence, New Zealand sees ASEAN and the ASEAN-led regional security architecture as being at the centre of the rules-based regional order. As a relatively small country, New Zealand has always placed a premium on international order as it accords the same rights to all countries regardless of size, disciplining national power through international law, custom and convention, as noted in the NZ Defence White Paper 2016.
Another point of commonality between ASEAN and New Zealand in terms of security order is Wellington’s support for ASEAN’s Southeast Asia Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone Treaty (SEANWFZ), which is in accordance with the ASEAN Political-Security Community (APSC) Blueprint 2025.
In addition, the introduction of the Plan of Action to Implement the Joint Statement for the ASEAN-New Zealand Strategic Partnership 2016-2020 builds on the existing relationship between both parties in relation to disarmament and arms control, besides the non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) through the United Nations.
Also listed within this plan are a number of non-traditional security (NTS) concerns in which cooperation between the two parties can be enhanced. These areas include counter-terrorism, transnational crimes, cyber-security and maritime security, as well as humanitarian assistance and disaster relief efforts.
ASEAN-New Zealand relations have been solidified by building upon areas of mutual interest and comparative advantages on both sides. The partnership between the two parties continues to contribute to the building of mutual trust and respect, good neighbourliness and interdependence as well as mutual benefits.
The sine qua non of any positive relationship is open communication that considers the multiple angles to a single event, which has been demonstrated by the ASEAN-New Zealand alliance thus far. It is wished that this bond be maintained for the benefit of future generations.