Rau rangatira mā, e huihui mai nei, i te kaupapa i tēnei po, naumai haere mai. Distinguished guests who are gathered for this occasion this evening I acknowledge and welcome you.
I specifically acknowledge: Members of the Diplomatic Corps; Hon Dame Silvia Cartwright, Rt Hon Jim Bolger; and Mr Farib Sos, Executive Chair of the Asia Forum - tēnā koutou katoa.
The 21st Century heralded the so-called Asian Century, a shift from the predominant Euro-Atlantic centricity to affairs of State. Asia’s sheer size and diversity has posed challenges and provided opportunities for us all. In New Zealand’s case, our interests there are political, security, trade and economic. The powerhouses of China, Japan, India, South Korea, and the ASEAN members are economically exciting. We are constantly reminded that when Asia is humming, New Zealand buzzes; when it stammers, New Zealand stutters too!
Tonight, it’s a great pleasure for Janine and me to join politicians, government officials, members of our business, legal, science, and academic communities; and representatives of the diplomatic community, including ASEAN Heads of Mission - to celebrate 40 years of New Zealand’s diplomatic relations with ASEAN and the 20th year of the Asia Forum.
A highlight for me tonight – and I’m sure everyone present this evening – will be hearing Dame Silvia Cartwright’s insights into her judicial role in Cambodia.
As the scene-setter I thought I’d briefly reflect on our recent visit to the region – to Singapore – where Janine and I have fond memories. We enjoy visiting Singapore to see the latest development, to see old friends and to shop!
The purpose of our visit last week was to celebrate 50 years of diplomatic relations between Singapore and New Zealand; and to mark 40 years of New Zealand’s relationship with ASEAN as a dialogue partner. Our High Commissioner to Singapore characterised the two-fold celebration as 50 years of friendship and 40 years in partnership.
As always, I was impressed by the innovation and enterprise of Singaporeans. Two of side visits I made showcased research to improve child neurological health and well-being and the creation of a 21st Century environmentally-sustainable eco-town for the tropics at Punggol.
In relation to ASEAN, New Zealand’s relationship with ASEAN remains front and centre of the New Zealand government’s foreign policy, and we enjoy thriving relationships with countries in the region. In conversations and addresses I noted that New Zealand has made a significant investment as a Dialogue Partner with ASEAN over 40 years.
In Asia, our people-to-people links have provided a solid foundation stone for our relationships. Asia is now New Zealand’s most significant source of migrants, foreign students and tourists.
In ASEAN’s case we celebrate the contributions that the approximately 80,000 people of South East Asian origin, who have chosen to make New Zealand their home, make. Their numbers are expected to continue increasing rapidly, particularly in Auckland.
Our economies have become more integrated. Two-way trade between New Zealand and ASEAN has grown from US$133 million in 1975 to US$11.8 billion today.
There is a Māori whakatauki, or proverb, which reinforces the value of cooperation and working together to achieve good outcomes – Naku te rourou nau te rourou ka ora ai te iwi – With your basket and my basket the people will thrive.
This year, in acknowledgement of the 40th anniversary milestone of diplomatic relations with ASEAN, New Zealand posts are hosting events in all 10 member states.
At each event, outstanding individuals – 40 in all – who have helped strengthen the New Zealand-ASEAN relationship are being acknowledged. In Singapore Janine and I attended a reception where I presented awards to five Singaporeans for their contributions to our mutual links in business, trade, scientific inquiry, tourism and education.
Looking ahead, a spirit of goodwill and cooperation, and the combination of resources will provide opportunities to strengthen our ties, with ASEAN and Asia more generally; and to find new areas of common interest.
Tonight, we acknowledge the Asia Forum for its part in providing a useful setting for dialogue about the issues that affect ASEAN - New Zealand relations and Asia- New Zealand relations and our engagement with them all. This dinner is an appropriate way for Government House to support the Asia Forum and its vision to improve local understanding of Asian politics, trade and investment.
Kia ora huihui tātou katoa, and please enjoy the hospitality of Government House.