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Albo invites Luxon

Albo invites Luxon


Prime Minister Christopher Luxon meets Indonesian Vice President Ma'ruf Amin in Wellington yesterday

Prime Minister Christopher Luxon will have his first big foreign policy opportunity next week when he travels to Melbourne for the 50th Anniversary of Australia's partnership with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese invited the heads of the ten members to a special summit.

And he invited Luxon as a special guest.

The event commemorates Australia becoming an ASEAN Dialogue Partner in 1974; New Zealand followed in 1975.

During his welcome to Indonesian Vice President Ma'ruf Amin, who is staying in the capital for two days, Luxon confirmed yesterday that he would go there.

This will be his first meeting with leaders like Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, Vietnamese Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh and Indonesian President Joko Widodo (Jokowi), all heavyweights in the Asia-Pacific region.

He had the opportunity to practice his diplomatic skills for ASEAN yesterday with Amin.

Luxon told Amin that he looked forward to meeting Jokowi at the meeting.

Amin, however, spoke about the Pacific region.

This time, my visit to New Zealand is part of our efforts to improve bilateral relations with countries in the Pacific region, he said.

In 2019, Indonesia launched a “Pacific Uplift” policy, which allowed it to deepen its relationship with the Pacific Islands Forum.

Commentators suggest this is partly to blunt Pacific criticism of West Papua's inclusion within Indonesia.

Indonesia is an associate member of the Melanesian Spearhead Group of countries within the Forum due to the inclusion of West Papua within its borders.

Vanuatu is a key member of the Spearhead, but it has long been the strongest supporter of independence for West Papua, which it considers a Melanesian territory rather than an Indonesian one.

Amin led the Indonesian side in discussions on this issue with Vanuatu's Deputy Prime Minister in Jakarta last year.

New Zealand has remained largely silent on West Papua, and during his 2018 visit, Jokowi said: Let me applaud New Zealand's support for Indonesia's territorial integrity. – a comment which suggested that Jacinda Ardern, then Prime Minister, had asserted Indonesian sovereignty over the territory.

At the time, Ardern, like Luxon yesterday, emphasized trade relations with Indonesia.

She said it represented ASEAN's largest economy and population.

In 2018, bilateral trade was around $1.4 billion, and the goal was to increase it to $4 billion by 2024.

This goal has almost been achieved.

In a statement announcing Amin's visit, Foreign Minister Winston Peters said annual bilateral trade with Indonesia was worth nearly $3.3 billion, and halal exports accounted for nearly half of that. Rising.

Luxon started talking about halal exports, but then the media was kicked out of his meeting with Amin.

Amin's trip to New Zealand was described as halal diplomacy by Indonesia's Antara news agency.

Last year, he said Indonesia was seeking to become a country setting global standards for halal certification.

“Indonesia not only wants to impose halal certification standards on the world, but it wants to become the largest country in the world in producing halal products,” he said in Shanghai.

Three organizations offer halal certification in New Zealand with links to Islamic communities here or in the Middle East.

There are other trade issues with Indonesia.

It is one of the Southeast Asian countries that has contributed to the region, erecting almost $47 million in non-tariff barriers to New Zealand exports.

Onion exporters complain about the reception they are currently receiving in Indonesia.

But as MFAT Deputy Commerce Secretary Vangelis Vitalis pointed out to the select committee on Monday, resolving this issue will require diplomacy.

And it will require a foundation that extends beyond commerce.

Luxon said he saw Amin's visit as a great opportunity for New Zealand and Indonesia to build deeper relationships with each other.

This relationship, however, was put to the test with the kidnapping of the New Zealand pilot, Philip Mehrtens, by independence fighters from West Papua.

Mehrtens has now been held captive for over a year, but Luxon thanked Amin for Indonesia's help in this matter.

But ultimately the challenge facing New Zealand foreign policy actors is coping with a world where politics intrudes much more heavily into the economic and trade space.

This was conceded on Monday by the deputy director-general of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Ben King, during a meeting of the select committee.

He said one of the changes the ministry was seeing in international relations concerned security rather than economics.

And it is a shift in which economic relations are reassessed in light of increased military competition and a more secure and less stable world, he said.

David Capie, director of the Center for Strategic Studies at Victoria University, reported last night that, speaking at an Asia Foundation reception, Winston Peters stressed that New Zealand's relationship with Asia were not limited to trade.

And Peters said more attention and resources would be applied to South, Southeast and North Asia.

The region is key to New Zealand's prosperity and security, he said.

He will have the opportunity to develop this theme later today when he meets Amin.




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