The past month has seen a formal change to our governance structure – the first major change in this area since the Asia New Zealand Foundation was created in 1994.
The Honorary Advisers met with Minister of Foreign Affairs Murray McCully in Auckland
As a sign of the maturing of the organisation, the Foundation has moved to have a smaller board – reducing the number of trustees to eight. This move will allow us to make sure the board can be more closely engaged with our work and play a more typical governance role.
Additionally, we have introduced a new network of New Zealand Honorary Advisers to complement our Asia Honorary Advisers. These people are leaders in a variety of sectors – from business to sport – and in their various careers have played an important role in strengthening ties between New Zealand and Asia.
We were delighted to bring together members of this network for the first time for a meeting with the Minister of Foreign Affairs Hon Murray McCully.
I’ve done quite a bit of travel in recent weeks. My first trip was to Hong Kong, hosted by the Hong Kong Trade and Economic Office (HKETO) to increase my understanding of the “One Country, Two systems” in Hong Kong. It was an interesting time to be visiting, as the special administrative region approaches the 20th anniversary of its establishment – commonly known as the 1997 handover – in July.
I had visited Hong Kong several times before the handover. Today, the city remains a vibrant Asian hub but its strategic environment has changed with the rise of various competitors like Shanghai, Shenzhen and Singapore. It is conscious of the need to actively promote itself; and believes its “super connectivity” with China and the rule of law it provides are its key comparative advantages.
China’s Belt and Road initiative, also known as One Belt, One Road and the New Silk Road, featured prominently in meetings I attended. The initiative is designed to boost trade within Asia and between Asia and Europe – and consists of two main parts, Hong Kong intends to be at the centre, financing it. We’ll also be hearing more about this initiative here in New Zealand in upcoming months and years.
During the visit of Premier Li Keqiang last month, New Zealand signed a memorandum with China on strengthening cooperation on the Belt and Road. I touched on this in my most recent piece for Fairfax Media newspapers and Stuff.co.nz, as well as discussing the need for New Zealand’s conversations about its relationship with China to broaden.
The Hong Kong trip was followed not long after by a visit to Canada and North America to meet some of our counterpart organisations there. I returned with a sense that New Zealand wasn’t doing too badly in its Asia engagement.
In fact, staff at our sister organisation the Asia-Pacific Foundation of Canada said they looked towards New Zealand as being leaders in that field. They saw our small size as an advantage – while Vancouver is one of the world’s “super-diverse” cities and has extensive international connections, the story is quite different in Newfoundland.
Canada also faces some of the issues identified in our Perceptions of Asia report and other research. As just one example, they reported it’s difficult to get young Canadians interested in taking up internships and other work opportunities in Asia, which limits the country’s potential to make the most of its relationships with Asian countries.
It was great to see so many Wellingtonians (and visitors to the city) turn out for the ASEAN Southeast Asian Night Market earlier this month. Southeast Asia is playing an increasingly important role in the lives of New Zealanders and events like this help to illuminate the great diversity of the region's cultures, and hopefully inspire some of those who attended to delve a little deeper.
Finally, welcome to our new staff members – Digital Content Editor Francine Chen and Researcher Rebecca Townsend. They’ll be working on a new media initiative, which we look forward to telling you more about in upcoming months.