The Rugby World Cup and Pacific Islands Forum provided rare opportunities for New Zealand to host leaders from around the world. For a Ministry focused on advancing and protecting New Zealand's international trade and security interests, these events provided an excellent platform to showcase our country and enhance our international relationships. New Zealand projected vibrancy and confidence to the world, which is integral to our future success.
The Pacific Islands Forum was a prime opportunity to progress New Zealand's development agenda. The„attendance of UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon was particularly welcome, elevating the challenges of the Pacific Region to a broader context. Forum Leaders agreed to focus on actions to improve sustainable economic development providing a strong foundation for our work programme and the co-ordination of efforts across the region.
As global political and economic unrest continues, New Zealand must maintain its traditional relationships while continuing to develop its presence in emerging markets. Relationships with Australia, the US and Europe remain important and we continue to progress our interests.
Anniversaries of diplomatic relations were marked with China (40th), Japan (50th) and Korea (60th), which demonstrates the depth of our relationships and stand us in good stead as we seek to develop them further. New Zealand's bond with Japan was strengthened through our response to the tragic earthquakes that impacted both countries.
Collaboration across Government and business is becoming an important feature of our drive to raise New Zealand's economic growth and other interests. Issues are increasingly complex, the world is more inter-connected, and no one agency can work in isolation.
The Ministry is leading cross-agency work on NZ Inc country and regional strategies, which are designed to ensure a coordinated approach to how we operate internationally. A milestone was reached this year with the launch of strategies for both India and China, these aim to direct effort over the next five years to strengthen New Zealand's economic, political and security relationships. Industry has been involved in developing and testing the strategies to ensure they translate into tangible benefits. Strategies have also been progressed for our traditional markets Australia and the United States; and wider regional strategies are underway for the high potential ASEAN and Gulf States.
As a small trading nation located some distance from our trading partners, the Ministry's work to enhance the competitiveness of New Zealand exporters through improved trading frameworks and the negotiation of free trade agreements remains as important as ever. A shift of economic power towards Asia is positive for New Zealand given its closer proximity. We are following a multi-faceted approach to pursuing trade and economic integration in the Asia Pacific region, with strong involvement in regional architecture, including the East Asia Summit and the expanding Trans Pacific Partnership.
The Ministry is active and highly targeted in its work with rule making institutions in order to bring stability and certainty to international debates, both political and economic. We are vigorously campaigning for a place on the United Nations Security Council, which would give New Zealand a voice on major decisions regarding peace and security.
Issues like climate change can only be advanced effectively through multi-lateral solutions and New„Zealand played a key role in securing a successful outcome from a Ministerial meeting on climate change held in Durban in December. A breakthrough commitment was made to negotiate a new legal agreement, applicable to all countries, by 2015.
Significant progress was also made in the promotion of the world's largest marine protected area in the Ross Sea region. The Ross Sea region is amongst the most pristine natural regions in the world and broad stakeholder views were considered in developing New Zealand's proposal for submission.
There is growing international interest in the Pacific and greater recognition of the region's potential. As Chair of the Pacific Islands Forum this year, New Zealand has worked to gain a stronger voice for Pacific concerns in international fora. Progress was made at both the High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness and at the Rio+20 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, with issues raised and commitments made to sustainable development and regional co-operation.
The New Zealand Aid Programme is advancing projects that support stability, governance and sustainable economic development, notably in fisheries, agriculture, renewable energy and tourism. We„are increasingly taking a coordinated approach to issue resolution, forming new partnerships outside traditional donor relationships and aligning development with foreign policy interests.
We played a role in facilitating discussions between the United States and Pacific island countries on access and pricing for tuna fishing in the region, which has significant importance for the economic wellbeing of our Pacific neighbours.
The Ministry has continued to progress its international policy goals this year and has achieved all its key objectives. This was done within budget and we were able to set aside funding for later use.
International volatility and the reality of flat-line budgets ahead require us to operate differently. We„consulted with our people on significant changes to the way the Ministry operates. This has without doubt been confronting for Ministry staff and their families. However, the consultation was an opportunity for people to provide feedback and changes were made as a result of this„input.
As the year concluded, we had announced decisions that will change some key features of the Ministry's traditional operating model and modernise our back office systems. I would like to sincerely thank our staff who maintained their professionalism throughout this period despite a range of differing views. The„year ahead will remain challenging as we continue to implement changes, but ultimately New„Zealand will gain from a more focused, flexible and contemporary Ministry.