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ASEAN - New Zealand Political and Security Relations

Published 29 Jul 2015
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ASEAN’s relationship with New Zealand started as early as 1975. Two years later, ASEAN leaders had a summit meeting with New Zealand’s leader in Kuala Lumpur. Since then the dia- logue relations have developed into a close partnership in many areas of co-operation based on mutual interests and commitment towards promoting regional peace, stability and prosperity.

This year marks the 40th anniversary of ASEAN–New Zea- land relations. A number of commemorative activities have been proposed to mark this very important milestone, including a commemorative summit, ASEAN–New Zealand youth summit, ASEAN–New Zealand business summit, an ASEAN night mar- ket in New Zealand, an ASEAN–New Zealand young business leaders’ forum, a fellowship scheme for ASEAN visitors to New Zealand and a New Zealand trade mission to ASEAN member states. All these will promote goodwill and better understanding among our people at various levels and, at the same time, provide an opportunity to explore new ideas and strategies in strengthen- ing our future co-operation.

Many of us in ASEAN feel an affinity with New Zealand. Firstly, we all admire and appreciate what a small state like New Zealand has achieved on the world stage. To name a few, it has world class teams in sports like rugby and sailing; it is famous for its incredible beautiful scenery in the Lord of the Rings movie series; it is known globally for its innovative and challenging in- formation technology; and although small in population, it has an economically advanced society. Secondly, over the past four decades, ASEAN and New Zealand have had a very fruitful and relatively trouble-free relationship. Indeed, we have a lot to learn from New Zealand.

Brunei Darussalam, in particular, is very appreciative of the friendship and support that New Zealand has shown to us for decades, both bilaterally and through the ASEAN process. When Brunei Darussalam joined ASEAN in 1984, one of the assignments given to us was to become a country co-ordinator for one of the six dialogue partners. In that way, each ASEAN country was assigned to handle one dialogue partner. So Brunei Darussalam became a country co-ordinator for the ASEAN– New Zealand dialogue relations in July 1985 for a period of three years. Our role was to co-chair the annual ASEAN–New Zealand ministerial meeting, alternately host and co-chair the ASEAN–New Zealand dialogue meetings with our New Zea- land counterparts and co-ordinate all the activities and pro- grammes relating to the ASEAN–New Zealand dialogue.

Early insight

In fact, prior to Brunei Darussalam’s membership of ASEAN, I had the privilege of leading the Brunei Darussalam delegation, as an observer, to attend the ASEAN–New Zealand meeting in Wellington in November 1983, which gave me an early insight into the many issues and subject matters involved in ASEAN– New Zealand dialogue relations. In addition to my role as the director-general of ASEAN–Brunei Darussalam then, I was ap- pointed as the non-resident high commissioner of Brunei Darus- salam to New Zealand in February 1986. This greatly helped me to establish warm personal ties with many New Zealand friends, including the then prime minister and foreign minister of New Zealand, the late David Lange, who extended me a very warm friendship and close working relations. This also facilitated closer co-ordination between our two countries, both bilaterally and re- gionally. My role was very clear: to reaffirm and work together in strengthening our commitment with New Zealand both for our bilateral co-operation and for the benefit of the region we share.

Despite the physical distance that separates us, Brunei Darus- salam and New Zealand have remained close friends. Politically, our leaders, ministers and senior officials have established warm friendship and good contacts. Military personnel from New Zea- land and Brunei Darussalam have undertaken joint exercises and training in the Brunei jungles, which have benefitted our two nations. Close co-operation exists between Brunei Darussalam’s Ministry of Defence and Massey University, which helps facilitate the running of courses for the Royal Brunei Armed Forces Command and Staff College. We are pleased that the collaboration was expanded to include a master’s degree programme in 2013, which will help the academy move towards achieving its goal of becoming a centre of excellence. Our defence and military officials have been working together through regular joint military exercises and military training. New Zealand took part for the first time in the 2011 BRIDEX and also participated in the 2013 BRIDEX held in Bandar Seri Begawan from 3–7 December 2013.

We also very much value New Zealand’s longstanding sup- port in the area of education, which helps enhance our human resource development, especially in the field of health and medi- cine.

Economically, New Zealand is one of our important trading partners. Brunei Darussalam has been exporting oil to New Zea- land since 1995 and we are importing food products, livestock, machinery and transport equipment from New Zealand.

Dialogue relations

While we in Brunei are enjoying the meaningful and warm bilat- eral relationship with New Zealand, we also very much appreci- ate the support and close co-operation we have had with New Zealand in the context of our dialogue relations with ASEAN over the past 40 years.

ASEAN and New Zealand have played a significant role in contributing to the peace and stability in the Asia–Pacific region. Even before the formation of ASEAN, New Zealand had a secu- rity relationship with some South-east Asian countries through SEATO, and was involved in helping some South-east Asian countries to deal with the Malayan Emergency, the Confronta- tion and the Vietnam conflict, which were seen as the source of instability and potential conflict in the region. It has taken part in the Five Power Defence Arrangements, which also in- volve Malaysia, Singapore, Australia and the United Kingdom. This indeed reflects New Zealand’s longstanding commitment to preserving peace and stability in South-east Asia. This arrange- ment has to this day helped to maintain co-operation between the militaries of the five countries.

Over the years, ASEAN has evolved and strengthened its co- operation to respond effectively to challenges affecting the politi- cal and security situation in the South-east Asian region.

Along the way with its dialogue partners, including New Zealand, ASEAN has introduced several processes to deal with political and security issues, such as the Post Ministerial Confer- ence and the ASEAN Regional Forum. This call for security dia- logue with outside powers reflects increased confidence among the ASEAN states. It also reflects the dialogue partners’ trust and confidence in ASEAN, and recognition that the security situa- tion in South-east Asia could no longer be viewed separately be- cause of the benefits of the growing economic inter-dependence and strategic linkages between countries in the region.

Appropriate base

ASEAN and its dialogue partners at the Post Ministerial Confer- ence in Kuala Lumpur in July 1991 decided that that conference was an appropriate base for the discussion of regional security issues. It then had as its members the six ASEAN countries (Bru- nei Darussalam, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore and Thailand) and seven dialogue partners (Australia, Canada, European Community, Japan, New Zealand, South Korea and the United States).

Following this, in January 1992, ASEAN leaders at their fourth summit in Singapore decided that the association should intensify external dialogues in political and security matters by using the ASEAN Post Ministerial Conference.

New Zealand, together with other dialogue partners, wel- comed the initiative and attached great importance to the PMC process. It provided New Zealand with the opportunity to share its interest in the political, security and economic affairs of South- east Asia and the Asia–Pacific region.

While the PMC process was useful, some ministers were not comfortable with the formal setting, especially where sensitive is- sues were being discussed. The increase in the number of ASEAN members and dialogue partners had an impact on the size of the conference room, intimacy of the discussion among ministers and logistical arrangements.

Important development

In 1993 a decision was reached during the AMM informal din- ner in Singapore, attended by the ASEAN foreign ministers, dia- logue partners, observers and guest countries of ASEAN, to hold the first ASEAN Regional Forum in Bangkok the following year with a view to conducting informal consultations on regional po- litical and security issues.

A year later the ASEAN Regional Forum was established. The forum serves as a venue for ASEAN, its neighbours, the ma- jor powers and others with interests in the region to consult on issues of regional security and eventually to prevent conflict, if not to settle them.

When the first meeting of the ARF was held in Bangkok in July 1994, there was no blueprint or road map. But the ini- tial hard work to lay the foundation started from there and, of course, in Singapore the year before. One of the very significant outcomes of the forum was the ministerial endorsement of the purposes and principles of the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation as a code of conduct governing relations between participants.

At the Second ARF in Brunei Darussalam in 1995 an ASEAN draft ‘ARF Concept Paper’, which provides the frame- work and direction of the ARF, was adopted. It outlined a three- stage approach for the ARF, covering confidence-building, devel- opment of preventive diplomacy and conflict resolution.

Rewarding experience

The Second ARF in Brunei Darussalam provided a very reward- ing experience and collective satisfaction for all ARF partici- pants, especially for the success in coming up with ‘A Concept Paper’, which became the basis for shaping the nature and direc- tion of the ARF. It was the result of hard work and extensive consultations among ASEAN friends and lobbying with other non-ASEAN members, through formal bilateral meetings, pull- asides along the corridors and formal sessions, with a common interest to promote peace, stability and security in the region. Also that was the first time we had to build a consensus with the non-ASEAN ARF participants, and I am indeed very grateful for the support and valuable contribution extended by our good friends who worked together with Brunei back then.1

The Brunei meeting also agreed that while active and equal participation would be required of all members, ASEAN would undertake the obligation to be the primary driving force. An agreement was made that the ARF would be developed at a pace comfortable to all and the decisions would be by consensus. The meeting also decided that the ARF would move along two tracks. Track I activities would be carried out by government of- ficials, while Track II would be by strategic institutes and relevant non-government organisations of member states.

As an ASEAN dialogue partner, New Zealand was a founding participant in the ARF. It has been actively involved in the forum to promote understanding in the evolving secu- rity landscape of the Asia–Pacific region and also co-chaired a number of forum meetings, including sessions on peacekeep- ing. It has played a constructive role in the forum, which was often serving as a bridge to narrow gaps in positions among forum participants.

Changing picture

Over the years, a number of developments have taken place. Firstly, the composition of the ARF membership has grown in size to 27 countries, and discussions, even on sensitive issues, have become more frank. Secondly, dialogues and interactions have also increased with the setting up of the Inter-Sessional Sup- port Groups and Inter-Sessional Meetings, as well as with the convening of Track II meetings. Thirdly, there has been increas- ing involvement of defence and military officials at various lev- els of the ARF. This indeed is a significant trend because of the critical need to get the militaries of member states to understand and support the ARF process and to interact and network among themselves.

Today, the ARF is one of the few multilateral forums in the Asia–Pacific region that provides a venue to discuss security mat- ters and this is a very important contribution from ASEAN to the maintenance of peace, stability and prosperity in the region.

Apart from the ARF, New Zealand actively participates in other ASEAN-initiated mechanisms, such as the ASEAN De- fence Ministers’ Meeting-plus and the East Asia Summit. The teamwork, dedication and practical co-operation shown by our defence and military officials during the first ADMM+ human assistance and disaster relief and military medicine exercises, in Bandar Seri Begawan in June 2013, was one of the success stories that involved New Zealand. The ASEAN leaders at their sum- mit meeting in Brunei Darussalam in October 2013 collectively commended the ADMM+ for the success of that initiative, which has promoted capacity-building, enhanced inter-operability and established mechanisms for effective response among our mili- taries. New Zealand is now serving as co-chair of the ADMM+ Experts’ Working Group on Maritime Security for the period 2014–16.

New Zealand has been an active participant in the East Asia Summit, a leaders-led forum for dialogue and co-operation on issues of strategic importance to the region, including political, security, economic and development.

Important component

As our partner, we will continue to work in close partnership with all EAS participating countries, including New Zealand, to ensure that the EAS will continue to be an important component of the emerging regional architecture.

Although at the time of its establishment ASEAN delib- erately declared its co-operation on economic, social and cul- tural matters, member states were grouping together more for political and security objectives. The political and security is- sues were included as part of ASEAN co-operation at the first ASEAN Summit in Bali in 1976. It was at this summit that ASEAN also devised a few formal instruments for the advancement of peace and stability in the region, including the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in Southeast Asia, which serves as a code of conduct governing inter-state relations in the region and provides a mechanism for the peaceful settlement of disputes. The treaty was amended in 1987 to allow non-South-east Asian states to accede to it.

When the ASEAN leaders and leaders of Australia and New Zealand had their commemorative summit in Vientiane on 30 November 2004, ASEAN encouraged the two countries to con- sider acceding to the treaty in future in the spirit of the strong trust and friendship between ASEAN and Australia and New Zealand. Responding positively, New Zealand acceded to the treaty on 28 July 2005 in Vientiane, which underlined its strong commitment to maintaining peace, stability and security in the region.

Since its formation, ASEAN has been emphasising the im- portance of preserving the South-east Asia region as a nuclear weapon free zone and one free of all other weapons of mass destruction, as enshrined in the Treaty on the Southeast Asia Nuclear Weapons Free Zone and the ASEAN Charter. Here, it is important to note that New Zealand is among the strongest supporters of ASEAN’s initiative on the zone. New Zealand is also supportive of the idea of having a general and complete dis- armament of nuclear weapons in the region and condemns any regional nuclear testing. ASEAN and New Zealand take similar stands on nuclear non-proliferation.

Transnational issues

Terrorism and transnational crime are issues that cannot be handled by one country alone. In this regard, ASEAN member states together with ASEAN’s partners and the international community need to address the matter collectively. In this area, ASEAN and New Zealand are committed to combat terrorism and transnational crime through the framework of the ASEAN– New Zealand Joint Declaration to Combat International Terror- ism signed on 29 July 2005 in Vientiane. Despite its limited capacity or expertise in this area, New Zealand has helped ASEAN to implement the joint declaration.

As well as this, New Zealand has been participating in the re- gional inter-faith dialogue meetings organised by ASEAN states, and co-hosted the third regional inter-faith dialogue at Waitangi in May 2007, which among other things aimed to enhance bet- ter understanding in the Asia–Pacific region and to collectively address the challenges to peace in the region.

Common interests

While ASEAN is intensifying its efforts to hasten and deepen the integration of its regional economy, it has remained open to the rest of the world. Its relationship with its dialogue partners and the rest of the world is very essential. This will not only enhance ASEAN’s regional competitiveness but also ensure that ASEAN’s work will be beneficial to its business community by opening up opportunities both within and beyond the region.

This is where we see New Zealand as our close friend and partner. In fact, its close economic links with ASEAN date back to the time when ASEAN was formed in 1967 and derive from political and people-to-people linkages between the two sides. New Zealand was one of the earliest dialogue partners to negoti- ate a free trade agreement with ASEAN.

Despite its small economy New Zealand came to the assis- tance of its ASEAN friends during the 1997–98 financial and economic crisis. New Zealand helped some ASEAN members bilaterally in devising ways to deal with the crisis.

Trade growth

Over the years, ASEAN–New Zealand economic co-operation has grown significantly and eventually developed through the creation of the ASEAN–Australia–New Zealand Free Trade Agreement (AANZFTA). And Brunei Darussalam has the privi- lege of assuming the role of country co-ordinator for ASEAN’s economic co-operation with Australia and New Zealand. The free trade agreement has a strong political and economic sig- nificance for the region. It is ASEAN’s most comprehensive free trade agreement to date. It not only reinforces New Zealand’s close engagement with South-east Asia but also promotes trade and investment flows between the two regions by exploiting their relative comparative advantages.

Today, the region is moving towards more comprehensive engagements such as the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, which is aimed at broadening and deepening ASEAN’s existing free trade arrangement with its partners, in- cluding New Zealand. In addition, the Trans-Pacific Strategic Economic Partnership (P4), which entered into force in 2006 with Brunei Darussalam, Singapore, New Zealand and Chile as founding members, paved the way for the larger Trans- Pacific Partnership negotiations, which began in 2010. These arrangements have the potential to further deepen the relation- ship between ASEAN and New Zealand and open new busi- ness opportunities for the private sector in the wider East Asia and Asia–Pacific region. It is also envisioned that free trade agreements such as the RCEP and the TPP could eventually serve as possible pathways for the Free Trade Area of the Asia Pacific.

Apart from the political, security and economic co-operative frameworks, New Zealand’s support through its development co-operation programmes has contributed significantly to our ef- forts in providing technological capacity, knowledge and skills for our people. Through their involvement in the many technical and development assistance programmes funded by New Zea- land, our people are also able to exchange ideas, establish contacts among themselves and understand each other’s culture and tradi- tions.

In the early years of our dialogue relations, New Zealand’s development assistance to ASEAN involved projects related to animal husbandry, reforestation and pine forest development. It has slowly expanded to include energy — bio-energy, geothermal power, energy inventory and assessment. It also funded several research projects, including a research fellowship in ASEAN af- fairs at the Institute of South East Asian Studies, and financed programmes that created linkages between the professional, ac- ademic, commercial and scientific institutions of ASEAN and New Zealand.

This area of co-operation eventually developed into specific flagship initiatives with specific plans of action, which are now covering areas such as youth, agriculture, disaster management, health and education.

In supporting ASEAN’s integration efforts, New Zealand has helped ASEAN’s newer members through the implementation of the Initiative of ASEAN Integration programmes and develop- ment of capacity-building.

New Zealand’s investment, technology and official devel- opment assistance have enabled the countries and people of ASEAN to make rapid progress in their social and economic development. It also recognises that their continued engage- ment and contribution to ASEAN can lead to significant spin- off effects for the wider bilateral relationships with individual ASEAN member states, including education, scientific and cultural co-operation.

Good friends

In conclusion, I would like to take this opportunity to express my sincere appreciation to the many good friends who worked closely with Brunei Darussalam back then, including among others David Lange, Mike Moore and Sir Don Mckinnon, who extended me such valuable support and warm friendship dur- ing my tenures as the then director-general of ASEAN–Brunei Darussalam, high commissioner to New Zealand, and perma- nent secretary cum SOM leader of Brunei Darussalam.

I have been the fortunate beneficiary of many kind-hearted friends from New Zealand. The senior officials Tim Francis, Neil Walter, Sir Maarten Wevers, Richard Nottage and Chris Elder, among others, always had a friendly working relationship with me, both bilaterally and in the ambit of ASEAN–New Zealand relations. Their friendship and support promoted mutual trust and excellent interactions among us.

When we made our first experiment to send abroad accred- ited ambassadors and high commissioners, New Zealand was the first country to receive such an arrangement, and I was ap- pointed. This continuing bilateral link works very well and is cost effective. With these personal ties and mutual trust, Brunei Darussalam and New Zealand have continued to enjoy a very warm and cordial relationship over the years.

As we celebrate the 40th anniversary of the dialogue relation- ship with New Zealand, we in Brunei would like to convey our deepest gratitude to the government and people of New Zealand for their contributions to the growth and development of Bru- nei Darussalam as well as other ASEAN member states. Brunei Darussalam will continue to work closely with New Zealand in promoting and enhancing our co-operation in many areas in our mutual efforts to ensuring continued peace, stability and pros- perity in the Asia–Pacific region.

H.E. Pehin Dato Lim Jock Seng is the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade II for Brunei Darussalam. This article was originally published by the New Zealand Institute of International Affairs in the New Zealand International Review, Vol. 40, No. 4, July/August 2015, pp. 32 – 35. It is republished with permission.