INDEPENDENT NEWS

ROC-New Zealand and New Zealand-Taiwan

Published: Thu 23 Oct 2003 04:12 PM
Hon Peter Dunne, MP
Leader, United Future New Zealand
Speech to 16th joint conference
ROC-New Zealand and New Zealand-Taiwan
Business Councils
10.35am, Thursday, October 23
Taichung
Dr Pan, Mrs Wright, Mayor Hu, members of the Government, honoured guests and delegates, thank you for your invitation to address this conference.
It is a great pleasure for me to be back in Taiwan once more and to have the opportunity of addressing you.
I am always delighted to see New Zealand’s trade and political relationships with other nations like Taiwan being encouraged and strengthened.
Like Taiwan, New Zealand is a small nation, living in the shadow of a much larger neighbour and needing to be alert and nimble every time a trading opportunity arises.
That is especially so in today’s international economic environment where, despite the commitment to multilateralism, bilateral trading relationships remain vital.
So I welcome closer links between our two countries and I congratulate the two business councils for their on-going efforts to improve trading relationships between our two nations.
Taiwan is currently New Zealand’s 8th largest trading partner, and people to people exchanges through overseas students and tourism are growing steadily.
The Taiwanese community in New Zealand is also growing and Taiwanese New Zealanders are extremely highly regarded for their strong commitment to good family values and for the contribution they are making to many aspects of our society.
As Kiwis, we have admired the tremendous steps Taiwan has taken since 1949 to become an economic power house, and we note with approval - and not a little envy - your pre-eminence as a high technology producer of computer products and semi-conductors in particular.
Indeed, I often wish that some of the Taiwan spirit that has contributed so much to the development of your country in the past 54 years could rub off on ours.
I want to congratulate the business leaders in both Taiwan and New Zealand who have invested so much in fostering the relationship over the years for their contribution, and I want to encourage you to build on those links in the future.
Already, there are annual economic consultations between the representatives of our two governments, and a range of cultural exchanges highlighting the diversity of our peoples, and placing an increasing emphasis on the now established common heritage of the Maori and the native Taiwanese peoples.
Our strong business and trading relationships, and our growing people to people links raise inevitably the political dimension of the relationship.
I have always been a firm believer in the philosophy that our two countries should have much greater political ties.
New Zealand takes a lot of pride in exerting itself on the world stage over such issues as democracy, freedom and the rights of people all over the world to determine their own destinies.
For that reason, I have always been astonished at and rather ashamed of the New Zealand government’s craven attitude towards China and fear of upsetting it over Taiwan.
There is no doubt of the increasing economic and political importance of that great nation, or of the significance for a variety of historical and other reasons of New Zealand's continuing close relationship with China.
It is in New Zealand’s interests to maintain the closest possible links with China, and I have no problem at all with that.
But that shouldn’t prevent us from speaking out freely on matters of great interest.
In the year 2000, our Parliament passed an historic motion recognising the President of Taiwan and calling for closer political relations between New Zealand and Taiwan.
Frankly, it was never going to shake the foundations of civilisation, but the response of the government at the time was dreadful.
It scurried around to the Chinese Embassy to grovel and kowtow, saying this did not mean we were abandoning the one-China policy.
It was just embarrassing.
China is just using that formula to prevent a constructive solution to the situation of both China and Taiwan, and while the world plays the game on China’s terms, there is no incentive on it to make progress or move closer to true democracy.
It is time we changed our approach to work more closely with democratic Taiwan, rather than continuing to sycophantically fall into line every time totalitarian China clicks its finger.
I believe it is time for a new policy for Taiwan/New Zealand relations based around the following points:
· Annual New Zealand ministerial visits to Taiwan and reciprocal visits to New Zealand by Taiwanese ministers, on matters other than just economic issues
· Regular exchanges of visits between the New Zealand Parliament and Taiwan’s Legislative Yuan
· New Zealand’s support for Taiwan’s inclusion in international organisations and agreements
· New Zealand and Taiwan to commence bilateral discussions with a view to negotiating an NZ/Taiwan Free Trade Agreement.
All of these measures can be achieved within the scope of the current one-China policy, and are the norm for other countries like Canada and Australia.
It is a matter of deep regret to me that we are not prepared to be as expansive in the wider development of the significant economic relationship between our two countries.
I find it bizarre, to say the least, that the nations of the world are very good at agreeing with the rights of small nations to self-determination in out-of-the way places like East Timor, or in rallying around the need to remove despicable tyrants like Saddam Hussein, even if they do not agree on the methods, but that these same nations are mute when it comes to the Taiwan issue because of an unwillingness to offend China.
While the issue is ultimately one for the people of China and Taiwan to resolve peacefully, the free world cannot stand idly by, preaching democracy to the totalitarian states, and then failing to support democracy when it occurs in a state like Taiwan.
Where is the logic in admitting Taiwan to the WTO, for example, but failing to allow it even observer status at the WHO?
The SARS crisis earlier this year surely showed the folly of Taiwan’s exclusion from any form of participation in the World Health Assembly and seemed to overlook the obvious point that sickness and disease show no political bias.
As a long-standing friend of both China and Taiwan, New Zealand should be prepared to be in the vanguard of breaking the deadlock, rather than forever running for cover every time the issue is raised.
We should be under no illusions that there can be rapid or easy solutions to this issue, but at the same time I do not believe that, given the closeness of our relationship in so many others ways, doing nothing is an acceptable alternative.
This conference is a timely reminder of the strength of our bilateral economic relationship and sends a clear signal that trade can build bridges to a wider political relationship.
In the WTO and elsewhere, the nations of the world constantly preach the virtue of open and competitive trade as one of the keys to unlocking political impasses.
I express both my best wishes to all of you as you seek to expand further the already strong economic relationship between Taiwan and New Zealand, and also my hope that the political relationship between our countries will flourish as a consequence.
Ted Sheehan Chief Press Secretary to Peter Dunne Tel: 04 470 6985 Cell: 021 638 920

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