Guest Blog by John Gallagher
As I see it, New Zealanders are missing out badly from a lack of public discussion about their country’s place in the world. Especially a lack of discussion that recognizes and draws together economic, ecological, cultural, diplomatic and geo-strategic dimensions as a basis from which to clarify the range of options and opportunities. Without such public discussion, important opportunities are being closed off.
Such discussion is worth prioritizing, given major trends such as a $150 billion overseas debt that has been accumulating since 1973 and huge global economic and cultural shifts away from European and United States dominance towards Asian.
Very briefly, the economic background is that until 1973 New Zealand was able to feel secure economically as a provider of bulk agricultural commodities to its colonizing Mother Britain. This economic relationship enabled it to achieve balance of payments surpluses and achieve a top world standard of living.
Geo-strategically, New Zealand felt secure in successive client-based relationships with fellow English-speaking Britain, and when that failed in world war two, with the United States.
Since 1973 however, New Zealand has had to relate to the wider the world economically following Britain’s entry into the European Common Market. New Zealand has also had to pay increasing amounts for oil as prices began then their inexorable escalation from about $US3 per barrel to peak at $147 last July before coming down to a current levels of about $90-100.
In terms of its geo-strategic and cultural relationships, the tide has also gone out on having great, English speaking patrons. With Britain this went out when they were defeated decisively by the Japanese in world war two, and with the United States when New Zealand’s nuclear-free policy passed into law in 1987. That meant the end of the Anzus (Australia, New Zealand and United States) military alliance.
The need to review our best ways of relating to the wider world also arises from major changes such as the rise of microchip and communications technologies, globalization, and Asian migration in conjunction with the new economic growth and dominance of places like Japan, China and India. Acute pressures on the globe’s physical resources and ecosystems are also manifesting themselves.
As I see it there are three options on the table for New Zealand:
1. seek a return to some kind of client-based dependency or alliance structure – including becoming a state of Australia
2. seek an independence either by making independent decisions on a case-by-case basis, or by seeking to isolate itself from the rest of the world
3. develop brokering or mediating roles, as a kind of Switzerland of the South Pacific that works to relate constructively and effectively to its Pacific and Asian neighbours as well as to the rest of the world. Such positioning might also suggest possibilities for developing some interesting international think-tank as well as information storage and processing services.
I would be interested in hearing from readers about these options – can any others be put on the table? Which options do you favour? What advantages or opportunities would be opened up or lost in the options you favour or oppose?