New Zealand seeks to strengthen engagement with US -foreign minister

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New Zealand’s Foreign Minister Winston Peters speaks during a news conference after he attended an emergency meeting of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) in Istanbul, Turkey, March 22, 2019. REUTERS/Murad Sezer/File Photo

Wellington (Reuters) – New Zealand Foreign Minister Winston Peters said on Thursday his country would seek to strengthen engagement with the United States on strategic and security challenges while also looking to unlock potential in their economic relationship.

“As a small democracy with deep relationships across the region, and focused on regional security and prosperity, New Zealand has a crucial role to play in promoting shared values in our part of the world and in growing economic opportunity and performance,” Peters said in a speech to the United States Business Summit in Auckland.

The speech was Peters’ first as foreign minister in the current government.

New Zealand elected a center-right government in October and Peters, who is leader of the New Zealand First party, has been foreign minister on two prior occasions.

New Zealand’s new prime minister, Christopher Luxon, has described the country’s foreign policy as bipartisan.

No significant policy shift is expected under the new government.

However, Peters in his speech said he thinks there is more that New Zealand and the United States could do together, and faster, to advance the countries’ shared interests and common values.

“We know moving with the speed and intensity required to meet current challenges is going to require all of us to step up. New Zealand stands ready to play its part,” he said.

He said this could be done by being deliberate and attentive to New Zealand’s contribution to international and regional security challenges, with the country “pulling its weight, where we can have the most impact.”

Peters said he would like to see the two countries working together to maximize the value and not just volume of their bilateral trade, fostering business-to-business connections and working to strengthen supply chains.

TVNZ reported that Luxon, who was also speaking at the event, said he wanted New Zealand to be externally oriented.

“I don’t think we’ve been engaging out there in the world in the way that we should and that we can and that we have maybe in our past,” he told the summit.