5pm, Wednesday 23 June 2021
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Tuia te Rangi e tū nei
Tuia te Papa e takoto nei
Tuia te here tangata
Ka rongo te pō, ka rongo te Ao
Tihei Mauri Ora
Namaskar, tēnā koe and good evening.
Thank you for your kind invitation to speak today at the 7th India New Zealand Business Council Summit.
India Business Council work
Over more than three decades the Business Council has played a crucial role in building business, cultural and trade cooperation between India and New Zealand. And for well over 150 years, members of the Indian community have been choosing Aotearoa as their home, and contributing to our collective future. So much so that Indian New Zealanders now make up the second largest ethnic community in Aotearoa – making significant contributions to New Zealand society.
Many of you here tonight are amongst those who are making enormous contributions in business, the arts, politics, and sport. With nearly seven decades of diplomatic relations with India, we recognise that our countries share many qualities. We are two modern, diverse democracies who are strongly driven by values. We have some fundamental commonalities: in particular, our strong desire for peace and prosperity in our region and beyond; our commitment to the rule of law internationally – and the international institutions that underpin them; and our concern for global challenges such as climate change.
In recent years our bilateral ties have intensified. There are three important drivers for this: the rapid rise of immigration – and linked to this, a thriving Indian diaspora in New Zealand, almost 240,000 and almost 5% of our population, and – in normal times – a flow of people in both directions for education and tourism purposes.
Theme “a decade of the new normal”
This year’s forum theme, a “decade of the new normal” is incredibly relevant at this time.
Our approach to creating a “new normal” has been shaped by the unprecedented experience of a global pandemic – Covid-19. New Zealand’s response put people at the heart of our considerations.
We maintained a ‘science-based, evidence informed, public health response’. While we didn’t have a road-map to guide our decisions these essential ingredients have positioned New Zealand to focus on an economic recovery that builds resilience for the wellbeing of our people, our planet and our prosperity.
And while New Zealand has weathered the storm, we are always cognisant of the precarious and unpredictable nature of COVID – as events in Wellington have seen today.
As the world grapples with the impact of a COVID19 our experience and what we value has inevitably changed the way that we move forward.
We are also keenly aware that huge loss of life, overwhelmed public health services, and economic vulnerability has been a common experience in several countries. We cannot get past the massive disruption and devastation the global pandemic has caused to families, communities, and nations.
I want to acknowledge the significant impacts of COVID-19 in India and our thoughts are very much with the people and communities who have particularly been impacted. I want to also extend my own very sincere condolences for the tragic loss of life that so many of you here and in India have been touched by. I was deeply saddened at the news of the recent loss of one of New Zealand’s long-serving and highly respected local staff members at our High Commission in Delhi.
I want to acknowledge the crucial role India has played in the global response to COVID-19. India’s extraordinary expertise in vaccine manufacturing is saving countless lives around the globe and giving immense hope to the world for a way through the current crisis. It was only right, therefore, that when India faced its own pressures at home, New Zealand, alongside the international community we rallied to support the local response.
In late April, the New Zealand Government contributed NZ$1 million to the International Federation of the Red Cross (IFRC), who worked to provide crucial medical supplies in India.
The lockdowns in each country left thousands of people stranded on the wrong sides of the borders. In the spirit of manaakitanga, working with the Indian government, New Zealand undertook an unparalleled repatriation effort to ensure the safe return of citizens and whānau. New Zealand assisted approximately 3700 people (the largest group from any country) to return from India. The Indian government made similar efforts to return citizens home.
The freedom we have experienced in New Zealand over much of the past year has been because of the “go hard, go early” approach we took with early implementation of Level 3 and Level 4 lockdown restrictions. But beyond lockdowns, the Government has had to implement and sustain some tough border and travel restrictions over the past year.
However I want to acknowledge the very real anguish felt by families who have been separated as a result of our Covid19 response. We recognise the strong connections many have to New Zealand, with jobs, homes, family and friends. There are no easy solutions.
I also want to recognise the challenges these disruptions have caused for businesses that rely on global travel. New Zealand’s last face-to-face bilateral with India was merely weeks before both India and New Zealand’s first COVID19 lockdowns. The trip took along a number of delegates from New Zealand businesses who returned with an optimism about the potential for trade ties burgeoning in India. No one could foresee the shockwave that put the world on hold; disrupting supply chains, closing borders and forcing a reset on economic activity.
So we’ve had to make a shift and it’s been a year of grappling with how to do business virtually – with businesses increasingly using digital solutions and e-commerce to mitigate these challenges. Tonight’s event shows us what is possible.
Approach to Foreign Policy
In my first speech as Foreign Minister I made the point that while we are a small country in and of the Pacific, we have a unique and distinct perspective founded in the Te Tiriti o Waitangi/Treaty of Waitangi. Our experience as a country can be enriched if we draw on bi-cultural values that resonate as we strengthen our relationship with others.
I want to see New Zealand’s independent approach to foreign policy characterised by Māori values such as:
manaakitanga – kindness or the reciprocity of goodwill;
whanaungatanga – our connectedness or shared sense of humanity;
mahi tahi and kotahitanga – collective benefit and shared aspiration; and,
kaitiakitanga – protectors and stewards of our intergenerational wellbeing.
These values enable Aotearoa New Zealand to promote relationships, culture and diversity at home and abroad. Intrinsically this is also helps to promote enduring peace, prosperity for all and as committed environmental stewards for the planet. A peaceful Indo-Pacific is a prosperous one.
Linked to this values-based approach is how we work collectively in pursuit of our core interests, is also important:
an international rules based order, which gives all countries a voice and provides frameworks that promote multilateralism;
keeping New Zealanders safe, promoting regional stability;
international conditions and connections that aid our prosperity, including supply chain resilience; and,
global action on sustainability issues such as climate change where solutions depend on international cooperation.
We need to be deliberate about the relationships that will help to recast what we value in our Indo-Pacific region and how we work together to achieve those common objectives.
I welcome this opportunity to engage on our shared interests; and identify tangible ways in which India and New Zealand can navigate this “new normal” together.
So why is India important for New Zealand’s future? The history of Indian settlement here dates back to 1809, with a significant increase during the period of 1879-1920 when many were transported for indentured labour from Fiji. In my own electorate there is a long proud history of horticulture in the Indian community in Pukekohe.
Our troops stood side by side in Gallipoli in WWI when the Indian Mountain Artillery joined the ANZACs and allied forces. Then again in WWII when Indian and New Zealand forces fought together at El Alamein and Cassino. There are several other examples – more recently activity has been primarily geared towards multilateral peace-keeping deployments.
We have strong people-to-people connections such those formed between then-Prime Ministers Peter Fraser and Jawaharlal Nehru leading up to the Colombo Plan. New Zealand also had an early influence on the development of India’s dairy sector and the building of India’s premier medical institute now known as the All India Institute of Medical Sciences. And we cannot forget the relationship forged by Sir Edmund Hillary who went on to become New Zealand’s High Commissioner to India.
So, as I say, India is important to New Zealand for many reasons.
Not only is it a rising power but a responsible power also. With over 900 million voters and over three million elected representatives at council level, India is by far the world’s largest democracy.
The development and humanitarian support provided by India to countries around the world – including in our shared Indo-Pacific region – is invaluable. And India has long been a key contributor to peace-keeping efforts within the United Nations. We were delighted to support India in gaining its current term on the United Nations Security Council.
New Zealand being a highly reliable and predictable partner for India
The Prime Minister will be speaking on the Indo-Pacific later this month. The Indo-Pacific connects our whanau of the Pacific, or close friends and relatives, further afield in East Asia and the Pacific Rim. And most importantly the Indo-Pacific recognises the influence of the Indian sub-continent on the wider region.
As we negotiate and navigate a path through COVID-19, we must hold fast to our values to guide our way as our forebears looked to the stars to guide them across the oceans.
Our values guide and shape our focus in the region, on building regional resilience for a peaceful Indo-Pacific. The foundations for such a region are known and accepted by most – we seek a region that is inclusive, transparent, upholds international rules, including freedom of navigation; where countries are sovereign, markets are open and where ASEAN remains centre-stage.
India is and will continue to be an immensely influential and prominent actor in building that kind of a region. We both have a deep stake in the region’s stability. And by working together we are better-placed to address the complex array of challenges facing it – from the economic and health crises arising out of the pandemic, to climate change, and the myriad of geostrategic challenges across the Indo-Pacific.
Aotearoa New Zealand will, alongside partners, seek to strengthen ASEAN-centred architecture to uphold regional norms and rules. Cooperating with one another’s’ regional initiatives where our principles and values align will be critically important. New Zealand welcomes both ASEAN’s ‘Outlook on the Indo-Pacific’ and India’s ‘Indo-Pacific Oceans Initiative’. Both highlight the need for greater maritime cooperation.
And this will be an area for further discussion with my counterpart in India; because as no person can singlehandedly sail and navigate a waka, no single country can face down these challenges alone. “He ora te whakapiri, he mate te whakatakariri” — (there is strength in unity, defeat in division).
In recovering from COVID-19, there is a lot India and New Zealand can do more of together in the region – finding ways to take forward our economic relationship, upholding and advocating for regional rules, norms, and institutions, and expanding our bilateral defence and security cooperation. We have a number of elements already being progressed, including a bilateral defence arrangement, plans for staff exchanges, and agreements on information-sharing.
India, therefore, will continue to grow in importance as a partner for Aotearoa New Zealand in our shared region. Cooperation and partnership will be at the forefront of our approach as we seek to address today’s complex set of challenges and emerge as a peaceful Indo-Pacific.
Of course we cannot discuss our relationship with India with touching on te ōhanga, or the economy – particularly to a business audience like yourselves!
Te Ōhanga not only means economy but also “nest”, from which our birds stabilise and strengthen to reach lofty heights and extensive distances.
I think this is poignant to the economic reforms initiated by Dr Manmohan Singh in the 1990s, the nest he built has seen India’s power and dynamism rise worldwide in a huge array of inventions and innovations used in daily lives.
This extends to New Zealand. We welcome the significant and increasing contribution to the New Zealand economy from Indian companies, particularly in biotech and services but also many other sectors – many of which will be represented here today.
India represents an enormous opportunity for New Zealand. In the year to September 2020, our two-way trade relationship was already worth nearly NZ 2.5 billion; but there remains significant opportunity to intensify our trade cooperation.
We have much to offer to India – approximately 140 New Zealand companies are already active in India (either through agents and distributors, directly with customers, or through other structures such as joint ventures), with 23 having offices in-market. Our Maori economy is burgeoning, growing at approximately 10 percent per year, with a deep interest in whenua, or land, and high value food production. My colleague Under-Secretary Rino Tirikatene will be joining a panel discussion to discuss the Māori economy in more depth.
We can see New Zealand businesses working Indian businesses to help improve their own products, for example like RML Engineering helping improve food safety for dairy farmers in India, and Auckland company Rakon providing technology to assist in India’s 5G mobile network roll out in the future.
And of course, our renowned education for international students has always been in great demand to Indian students.
India, as an emerging strategic market for tourism and our second largest source of students will be essential in the recovery of these sectors. One of the government recovery initiatives for international education is an initiative spearheaded by Education New Zealand to promote a range of flexible education options that enable students to remain connected and engaged while border restrictions remain in place.
We see this as an opportunity to reset and increase the quality of our services. I am aware that in the past a number of Indian students were caught up by low-quality, unregulated education agents who took the chance to exploit young students. We do not want this in our “new normal” and want to ensure that in the future when our borders reopen your children travelling so far from home are safe and looked after in our country.
While trade is crucially important for our respective economic recoveries, we recognise that for India, an economic relationship must go beyond the traditional buyer/seller model. We have taken careful note of India’s Self-Reliant India campaign and are exploring how New Zealand can best support India’s development ambitions and offer the expertise and capability that India most values. As part of this, we are looking at how to grow New Zealand’s investment footprint in India.
New Zealand of course would love to see India as part of a formal trade agreement, whether it be bilaterally or through the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP). However we understand and respect India’s decision.
But we would be open to exploring with India how we can build a closer economic partnership, in whatever form, or forum, that might take. In the meantime, there is much we can do together in the multilateral space to ensure the efficacy of the World Trade Organisation.
I acknowledge the shared ties in our history – though shaping our countries in different ways so much of what happened here in the nineteenth century has some connection to events that unfolded in India.
New Zealand’s historical connections to India are deep and rich they have formed over a period of time and we are now at a juncture to consider the next step.
From our nearly seven decades of diplomatic relations with India, we are two modern, diverse democracies who are strongly driven by values. We have some fundamental commonalities: in particular, our strong desire for peace and prosperity in our region and beyond; our commitment to the rule of law internationally – and the international institutions that underpin them; and our concern for global challenges such as climate change.
Our bilateral relations should focus on wider cultural and educational exchanges, which may include mutual visits by musicians, dancers, painters, literary personalities, film directors and others.
When we look forward to the future, there is no denying the problems are serious: the ongoing pandemic and its related economic crisis, global insecurity, climate change to name a few.
I am hopeful that the relationship between New Zealand and India will continue to strengthen during this time. I say this while knowing that India has the whole world knocking at its door. We are acutely aware that we cannot rely simply on sentiment or on shared history for a place in India’s future, and so I hope that my words today can give a sense of New Zealand’s strong ambition for this enhanced relationship.
Our diaspora Indian communities that have long made New Zealand their home make a significant contribution to our way of life, our sense of community and of course our economy. Indeed amongst the Māori community intermarriage has been a pathway to consolidate what we have in common and share the very best of who we are. This is evident also in wider aspects of our society and we are better for it.
While all want to see more trade, see travel resume, and welcome students and tourists to our shores, health and safety are our priority considerations. Our Government will make changes to our border settings only when it is safe to do so. Those living in New Zealand have experienced a high degree of freedom. But I also want to acknowledge that in our global world, no one is safe until we are all safe.
There is a Māori proverb comes to mind: “Kaua e rangiruatia te hāpai o te hoe; e kore tō tātou waka e ū ki uta”. Which translates to: “Do not lift the paddle out of unison or our canoe will never reach the shore”. With India and New Zealand paddling in unison, we can much more effectively tackle some of these challenges.
New Zealand firmly believes that our partnership with India can benefit the world. So together, let us embark on this journey
Horahia rā e Matariki ki te whenua, ki te moana, ki a tatou katoa, spread your guiding light oh Matariki as a beacon to illuminate to pathway ahead, by land, by sea, by sky, the “new normal” is upon us.
Nōreira, tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou, tēnā tātou katoa.