Asia Forum Wellington Dinner to celebrate 55 years of Japan NZ relations

Asia Forum Wellington Dinner to celebrate 55 years of Japan NZ relations, Government House, Wellington
30 Oct 2007

Greetings, Kia Ora, Kia Orana, Fakalofa Lahi Atu, Taloha Ni.

May I specifically greet you: Your Excellency, Mr Toshihiro Takahashi, Ambassador for Japan to New Zealand; Mr Farib Sos, Chair of the Asia Forum of Wellington; Hon Philip Burdon, Chair of the Asia New Zealand Foundation; Dr Sachio Semmoto, Founder, Chairman and Chief Executive of e-Access Ltd Japan and our guest speaker this evening; Ambassadors, High Commissioners and members of the diplomatic corps; Distinguished Guests otherwise including Hon Judith Tizard Minister of Consumer Affairs, no fewer than four former New Zealand Ambassadors to Japan Maarten Wevers, Richard Nottage, Philip Gibson and John McArthur; Ladies and Gentlemen.  Greetings and in the context this evening's gathering—yokoso.

It is with pleasure that my wife Susan and I welcome you to Government House in Wellington this evening for this Asia Forum of Wellington dinner to mark 55 years of modern relations between Japan and New Zealand.  Given we have a distinguished guest speaker this evening I will confine myself to a brief outline of the relationship between our two countries.

In the 55 years since Japan regained full sovereignty and established normal diplomatic relations with New Zealand, it has become a major bilateral and regional partner of New Zealand and is one of this country's anchor trading relationships. Strong political ties are underpinned by a commonality of many views, a shared interest in the stability, growth and development of the Asia-Pacific community and, for New Zealand, substantial links of economic, trade, tourism and people-to-people kinds.

While we do not agree on all matters, New Zealand and Japan share similar views across a spectrum of global issues.  These are based on values of natural justice, democracy, respect for international law and the United Nations, concern for the environment and determination to promote human rights.  We also co-operate in Asian regional groupings such as the East Asia Summit and at the United Nations.

As well as being the world's second largest economy, Japan is New Zealand third largest trading partner, with exports totalling NZ$3.5 billion in 2006/7.  As a supplier of high quality coal, aluminium and agricultural products, New Zealand business engagement is strategically important.

The people-to-people links between New Zealand and Japan are broad, deep and well established. More than 40 New Zealand cities and towns have active sister city relations with Japan. There is also a wide range of linkages between New Zealand and Japanese tertiary institutions while Japanese is the third most commonly taught language after English and French in our secondary schools.

All these points underpin a healthy relationship and bode well for the future.  It was therefore with pleasure that I agreed to host this dinner on behalf of the Asia Forum of Wellington - a grouping that encourages the quality of debate by soliciting and discussing views and viewpoints about Asian matters which have a relevance for our country.

On that note I will close in Maori by issuing greetings and wishing you good health and fortitude in your endeavours.

No reira, tena koutou, tena koutou, kia ora, kia kaha, tena koutou katoa

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