New Zealand looks ahead to 50 more years

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New Zealand looks ahead to 50 more years


Murray McCully, New Zealand’s foreign affairs minister, center, poses with New Zealand Embassy officials including Ambassador to Seoul Patrick Rata (front row, fourth from right) and other guests at a Year of Friendship reception held at the ambassador’s residence in Itaewon, central Seoul, last week. By Park Sang-moon

Korea and New Zealand should be more ambitious in fostering their trade and economic ties as they approach the next 50 years of diplomatic relations, said Murray McCully, New Zealand’s foreign affairs minister.

“If there’s one reminder that I think we should note in the 50th year, it is that New Zealand and Korea do not yet have a free trade agreement,” said McCully, in an interview with the Korea JoongAng Daily last week. “This is something that Korea has completed with other parties [such as the United States and the European Union].”

Minister McCully was in town for a one-day visit to mark the Korea-New Zealand Year of Friendship as the two countries celebrate 50 years of diplomatic ties this year. He hosted a celebratory reception at the New Zealand ambassador’s residence in Seoul last Thursday where guests included Vice Foreign Minister Ahn Ho-young and Chairman of the United Nations Korean War Allies Associations Chi Kap-chong. In June, Chi became an honorary officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit for his contributions toward enhancing New Zealand’s relations with Korea.

Also during his short visit, Minister McCully gave a commendation to actress Ha Ji-won, also New Zealand cultural ambassador, for promoting relations between the two countries, and met with Korean Foreign Minister Kim Sung-hwan. Kim had visited New Zealand in August where both foreign ministers signed a new Antarctic Cooperation Agreement and discussed progress in the FTA.

“We need to understand that trade and economic ties provide a platform for contact into many other areas,” Minister McCully said. “[New Zealand’s] wider relationship with Korea is important to us and that will depend on having improved business and trade ties over the next few years.”

Korea and New Zealand have launched official talks to put together a bilateral FTA since 2009 but negotiations are still under way. Progress in the negotiations between the two countries has been slow in part due to concerns in Korea that New Zealand’s dairy and agricultural products would hurt the domestic market.

“New Zealand’s competitors in the Korean marketplace are not Korean producers but Australians, Chileans and other producers,” he said, noting that the New Zealand public has a strong appetite for high-quality consumer goods and motor vehicles from Korea, while the Korean public also has a high appetite for New Zealand food and beverages. As of 2010, Korea was New Zealand’s fifth-largest exporter and ninth-largest importer.

“I hope that we’ll see progress soon, more progress next year,” he said. “The political calendar is an interruption for these things in both of our countries but I’m taking the opportunity as we pass an important milestone [of 50 years of diplomatic ties] to be ambitious, not to be complacent about the relationship.”

He urged more aggressiveness.

“New Zealand and Korea are committed to completing an FTA,” he said. “Let’s get that deal done for the benefit of both of our countries and let’s look into other areas for cooperation, on environmental issues, research and development.”

By Lee Eun-joo []
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