Being engaged with ASEAN gives New Zealand a platform for our voice to be heard, says Pam Dunn, NZ Ambassador to ASEAN (the Association of Southeast Asian Nations).
What is ASEAN?
Pam Dunn: “ASEAN is a collection of 10 diverse Southeast Asian states that got together more than 50 years ago during a time of conflict and turmoil.
“Its main aim at the time was to develop trust and confidence among its members. By and large, it’s been pretty successful at keeping peace in the region.
“But it is now coming to a crossroads around whether its structures and processes in the last 50 years still work for the next 50 years.
“For New Zealand, because we are not a member of the G7 or the G20, being part of the ASEAN-related meetings gives us a platform for our voice to be heard and to influence regional developments.”
What is the diversity in ASEAN like?
Pamm Dunn: “ASEAN is really diverse. Its biggest member is Indonesia with a population of 260 million. The smallest is Brunei, with a population of 425,000.
“There are huge diversities in wealth and development in ASEAN. Singapore is highly developed and has a GDP per capita of well over US$50,000. The poorest ASEAN member is Cambodia, with a GDP per capita of about US$1300. There are got lots of internal challenges around bridging the development gap and inequality gap in ASEAN.”
How are ASEAN-New Zealand ties?
Pam Dunn: “ASEAN, with its combined population of 630 million people, represents the world’s third-largest market. It is New Zealand’s fourth-largest trading partner. It’s a good market for us. We have a free-trade agreement called the AANZFTA (the ASEAN Australia New Zealand FTA). Our goods and services have been increasing steadily since that was signed in 2010. The most exciting thing is the potential to do even more with the region, especially at this time.
“We have lots of meetings in the ASEAN system, a lot of documents, a lot of process but at the heart of it, it’s around setting the rules and the norms for the region and for New Zealand.”
– Asia Media Centre