Patron: Her Excellency, The Right Honourable Dame Cindy Kiro, GNZM, QSO, Governor-General of New Zealand

Key points from Suzannah Jessep’s Asia Forum talk: ‘Looking back and looking forward: strengthening and transforming NZโ€™s engagement with Asia.’

By Dr Anita Perkins

The future is Asia and New Zealand needs to school up. ๐ŸŒ
That is a very nutshell version of Suzannah Jessep’s talk to the Asia Forum last night on ‘Looking back and looking forward: strengthening and transforming NZโ€™s engagement with Asia.’ ๐Ÿ’ก
Suze is the CEO of the Asia New Zealand Foundation and is well respected for her diplomatic career and expertise in international relations. โญ

Some key takeaways for me were:

๐Ÿ”‘ over half of the world’s population is in Asia. That has huge implications for how we think about politics, trade, online consumption, overall percentage of world GDP etc.

๐Ÿ”‘ the best way for us to take up the opportunities this presents is to become more knowledgeable in Asian languages, cultures, knowledge systems and ways of being.

๐Ÿ”‘ we need to be targeted in our engagement, defining what our niche is, where we can add value, and who to connect with.

๐Ÿ”‘ some iwi Mฤori feel strong connections with Asian cultures and are highly adept at creating people-to-people links. The value of the role of te ao Mฤori in creating these people connections is under recognised. Similarly, the make up of Asian diaspora in New Zealand is increasing. The role of this population in providing leadership and direction to our approach with Asia is underutilised.

๐Ÿ”‘ the world is changing. This means that what works before won’t always work again. We need to think through scenarios. The Singapore Centre for Strategic Futures provides a good example.

๐Ÿ”‘ As a small nation, New Zealand needs to navigate geopolitical tensions, in particular US-China tensions, with care. The Malaysian academic Cheng-Chwee Kuik provides a framework of ‘Build, Bide, and Buffer’ which helps small to medium sized countries maintain independent foreign policy while dealing with pressures from super power nations.

๐Ÿ”‘ We need long-term, bipartisan approaches and a consistency in our engagement. Our partners in Asia won’t respond enthusiastically to a relationship which changes every few years or waxes and wanes in levels of input.