As a small island at the bottom of the South Pacific, New Zealand benefits greatly from building strong and enduring global relationships. Having the opportunity to meet world leaders provides us with an ideal platform to forge those relationships. It gives us a chance to discuss the issues important to us, and to strengthen our diplomatic ties and trade links. We know that we won’t see our economic prospects thrive if we only sell to ourselves, which makes bolstering these trading links so vital to growing our economy, creating jobs and attracting higher wages for hard-working Kiwis and their families.
Last week I had the privilege of attending the East Asia Summit in Laos, where I met with a number of leaders to discuss the challenges facing our region, including Us President Barack Obama, and the Prime Ministers of Singapore, Australia, Malaysia, Myanmar and Viet Nam. The focus of most of these meetings was to talk about regional and ……….. cyber-security, counter-terrorism, and ways to broaden and improve our trade industries. While in Vientiane, I met with Prime Minister Thongloun of Laos, and pledged $11.5 million to support the ongoing clean-up operations of the Viet Nam War-era unexploded munitions. This funding will make a real difference to the safety and economic prospects of the people of Laos.
Prime Minister Thongloun and I also announced an ‘Open Skies’ air services agreement to help foster closer relations for our two countries. This builds on the network of air services agreements that we have across South East Asia, a region which present sever-growing opportunities to New Zealand. From Laos I travelled to Pohnpei in the Federated States of Micronesia to take part in the 47th annual Pacific Islands Forum, alongside leaders from fifteen other Pacific countries. High on our agenda this year was climate change, and boosting the sustainability of fishing activity in the Pacific.
The Government has already announced our intention to ratify the Paris Climate Agreement later this year, and we welcome the stewardship shown by many other Pacific countries. At the forum we also discussed the PACER-Plus trade agreement, which aims to create jobs, raise the standard of living, and encourages sustainable economic development in the Pacific. I know we say it often, but New Zealand continues to box above its weight on the global stage. Continuing to do this in the future depends on us being open and connected with the rest of the world and maintaining these strong relationships with the Asia-Pacific region. Enhancing the prospects of our Pacific neighbours and building strong bonds with our ASEAN friends in turn ensures that New Zealand continues to prosper as a valued global citizen.