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At The Centre Of Things
The Philippines is where SCOT bases its overseas operations in Southeast Asia. This English-speaking country is a founding mem ber of ASEAN and is strategically situated equidistantly to all of the other 9 ASEAN member countries. Its financial centre is based in Metro Manila where SCOT operates its main Hope Training Centre along with other satellite centres located in adjacent provinces. Being at the crossroads of South east Asia, it is a major communications and transportation hub in the region where trade and investment flows through and fans out to all points of the compass. In recent years, the country has surged ahead economically.
FACING UNIQUE CHALLENGES
New Zealand’s relationship with Asia goes back to the 19th century and after major immigration policy changes in New Zealand in the mid-1980s the inflow of Asian migrants to New Zealand diversified and increased exponentially.
Between March 1986 and the year of the last Census in March 2006, New Zealand’s resident population who were born in several countries of Asia increased almost sevenfold – from 32,685 to 248,364. Projections by Statistics New Zealand bear that by 2026 16% of New Zealand’s population will be of Asian origin.
For all residents living in this country today, it would seem naturally that New Zealand is their neigh bourhood. But there is also a second much larger neighbourhood – Southeast Asia, the neighbourhood where New Zealand resides and this suggest some important implications.
New Zealand’s place in the wider region of Southeast Asian also faces significant and historically unique challenges. In recent times, the 10 countries of Southeast Asia who have collectively grouped them selves under ASEAN have remained remarkably free of prolonged and inter-state conflict for the past 40-years. As a result, they have achieved high annual economic growth rates along with the rise of China. Today, Southeast Asia’s economic ascendance is reflected in New Zealand’s rapidly changing tra ding patterns that have yet to be matched by a deepening and tightening of economic and other ties with the ASEAN 10 countries.
MAJORS SHIFTS HAVE OCCURRED
For the first time in it’s history, New Zealand’s (and Australia’s) major strategic ally and protector – the United States, is not the same as its major trading partner; nor is its strategic protector and economic saviour allies of each other. Major shifts have occurred. Today, seven of New Zealand’s Top 10 trading partners are in Asia and the ASEAN 10 countries as a whole have become NZ’s third-largest trading partner. New Zealand’s merchandise trade with Southeast Asia countries alone have doubled in the past 5-years. It has the potential to grow even faster if more connections and relationships are established over the next few years.
In recent times, most countries of the ASEAN 10 have notched robust annual economic growth rates which are the envy of other countries around te world. In 2012 alone, the GDP annual growth rates of the Philippines 7.8%, Indonesia 6.02%, Burma 5.5%, Thailand 5.3%, Vietnam 4.89%, and Malaysia 4.1% exceed those of Australia 3.1%, New Zealand 2.5%, the USA 1.8% and the UK 0.6%.
With rapid economic growth in Southeast Asia has come a move of people from other parts of the region to their financial capitals. New Zealanders, for example, are no longer just the missionaries and aid workers of previous decades, but are now discovering growing opportunities for entrepreneurs, merchant bankers, educators and other professionals working for large multinational companies. The future of Southeast Asia lies in the continued ascendance of that region – socially, culturally, economic ally, politically, strategically and globally.
KEYS WHICH OPEN UP OPPORTUNITIES
Much of New Zealand’s gaze is still very much oriented towards the West but for it to punch its weight through, size does matter. Take for example the Group of 20 which brings together finance ministers and central bank governors from 19 countries plus the European Union but to which New Zealand is excluded. They hold annual meetings to coordinate policy between group member countries in order to achieve stability and growth in their economies yet the performance record of its members pale in comparison to those being enjoyed by countries of the ASEAN 10 and their adjacent neighbours of China and India.
Australia, on the other hand, by its own aspiration as a middle economy has gained entry into exclusive ‘country’ clubs to which New Zealand will never be invited largely because it still doesn’t carry much weight as a contender. Even as Australia and New Zealand have much more in common together than they do apart, these distinctions are real and keenly felt separations.
For New Zealand to ascend economically as Australia already has, its future needs to be integrated more closely with countries situated in its larger neighbourhood. Engaging with a rising China and Southeast Asia can best be done only through active and proactive collaboration. New Zealand needs to reassess its outdated outlook on Asia. It needs to be adjusted to fit the realities.
The ASEAN 10 countries, for example, barely rate any mention in New Zealand yet all of those countries are each represented by migrant communities who have settled on its shores. If they are mentioned at all it’s mostly about contrived issues gen erated by the far right and left wingers and ones that resonate and reverberate negatively within those communities.
These reactions ultimately cause damage and hamper any ini tiatives those communities might want to undertake that lead to strengthening bilateral relationships and development of more trade opportunities for the rest of New Zealand through close and valuable contacts they have with countries and the communities they originally come from. These communities hold the keys which open up opportunities for trade and other commercial endeavours.
The countries which reside in New Zealand’s wider neighbourhood aren’t really all that far apart from it as one might like to think. The narrow seas that separate us with them aren’t so wide that they can’t be crossed with ease by contemporary modes of communication, shipping and travel. The mindset that New Zealand is an isolated country located at the bottom of the world in the geographical sense no longer serves as a good excuse to deny itself a far better future it deserves.
BASICALLY NETWORKING ORGANISATIONS
The world’s regional socio-economic and political alignments have undergone a radical and often-overlooked transformation in the last 25-years. In the midst of this sea of change, there has been an unprecedented growth in activities of nonprofit organ isations or NGOs.
Aside from their stated charitable causes and objectives, NGOs are basically networking organisations that have assiduously developed wide contacts and relationships within communities where they are more often present and embedded. Because of this presence, they have moved from back- to center stage and are exerting their influence in many aspects of local development, international relations and bi-lateral trade opportunities.
In New Zealand, for example, NGOs that enjoy cross-border presences such as SCOT Trust New Zealand are beginning to spotlight their value as facilitators and networkers who when partnered up with and adequately resourced by commercial partners or sponsors result in closer synergies between countries and their decision-makers at the levels of government, local councils, business, communities and individuals.
That having been said, these opportunities carry potentials that can work for parties in New Zealand and SCOT Trust New Zealand is ideally positioned to take up expressions of interest that explore mutually beneficial ideas which eventually result in initiatives that raise their profiles within the region of Southeast Asia consequently leading to outcomes.
SCOT Trust New Zealand | ASEAN 10 Connections
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