Excitement is mounting in the Beehive. Nanaia Mahuta is contemplating her first overseas visit as our Minister of Foreign Affairs.
Not, we might think, to Australia or the Pacific Islands (although she will drop in on the Aussies on the outward journey).
No, this is further afield, to host Te Aratini at Expo 2020 and visit six countries as well as meet with seven foreign ministers and a range of international representatives.
She announced yesterday she will leave New Zealand tomorrow
“… on an international programme to advance Aotearoa New Zealand’s interests on a range of issues, including our COVID-19 response and recovery and engagement in the Indo-Pacific.”
She acknowledged this is the first international visit of a New Zealand Foreign Minister since COVID-19 broke out across the globe.
“I am looking forward to meeting some of my counterparts in person, following a year of virtual meetings and online engagements,” said Nanaia Mahuta.
The first stop is Sydney to meet Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne, followed by a transit in Singapore which will include a meeting with Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan.
Mahuta will travel next to Jakarta where she will meet her Indonesia counterpart, Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi, and separately meet with the ASEAN Secretary General, (Dato Lim Jock Hoi, although the press statement does not name him).
She then travels to the United Arab Emirates to support New Zealand’s exhibition at Expo 2020, and to host Te Aratini (Festival of Indigenous and Tribal Ideas), and meet with UAE counterpart Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed. The festival is New Zealand’s single most important event at Expo 2020 in Dubai.
The Minister will then travel to Doha with New Zealand’s Special Representative to Afghanistan to meet her Qatari counterpart Sheik Al-Thani and thank him for Qatar’s support of New Zealand’s Afghan evacuation.
“The Qatari Government has been generous in supporting departures from Afghanistan and is continuing to play an important role. My visit will allow me to formally recognise and thank them for this support,” Nanaia Mahuta said.
The statement doesn’t name our special representative to Afghanistan but early this month she appointed Matthew Hawkins, NZ’s ambassador to the United Arab Emirates, to that post.
Next on the itinerary, the Minister will travel to Washington DC and Ottawa to reaffirm New Zealand’s friendship with the United States and Canada. She will hold meetings with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and newly-appointed Canadian Foreign Minister Mélanie Joly.
There’s not much chance to hold bilaterals with other foreign ministers while she is at Expo, we suspect, but this event offers a great chance to display substantial Maori content.
For the first time in World Expo history, the Expo website says, every participating country will have its own pavilion. Visitors are invited to…
Enjoy immersive cultural experiences and discover what makes each country unique as you explore hundreds of pavilions.
The minister expressed herself enthusiastically in a recent press release from New Zealand Trade and Enterprise.
“For many Indigenous & Tribal peoples, including Māori, our beliefs are grounded in whakapapa (or genealogical connections) that establish relationships between people, the environment and the spiritual world. In the wake of the global pandemic these beliefs and values can help shape the world’s much needed commitment toward empathy, sustainability, and intergenerational solutions for wellbeing,” she said.
“Relationships are the cornerstone of Aotearoa New Zealand’s international connections. It is timely that Te Aratini will create a movement toward enhancing global relationships and exploring how to more proactively empower the resurgence and regeneration of Indigenous economies. Globally we can collectively build back better, fairer, more inclusively and more indigenously.”
New Zealand Trade and Enterprise says:
Aotearoa New Zealand’s values-led approach to foreign affairs seeks to ignite connections between Indigenous & Tribal Peoples globally through the delivery of Te Aratini during Tolerance and Inclusivity Week at Expo 2020 Dubai from 17-19 November. Expo 2020 will take place in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) a place which, like Aotearoa New Zealand, is home to more than 200 nationalities. This shared diversity and respect for different cultures provides the ideal platform for Te Aratini to showcase the value of Indigenous & Tribal cultures.
Te Aratini will mark a culturally significant moment in the history of World Expos with Aotearoa New Zealand leading the collaboration of Expo participating countries to showcase the untapped potential Indigenous & Tribal Peoples offer to solving global issues.
With the heralding in of Matariki, the Māori New Year, Aotearoa New Zealand is calling for international participants to join Te Aratini and be a part of the movement toward greater inclusion and acceptance of Indigenous & Tribal Peoples’ knowledge and know-how.
Well done, minister, for taking the first plunge offshore after a year in office.
Her next international exposure is likely to be at the General Assembly of the United Nations in New York where she would deliver the annual New Zealand address, but this will be a video event from the safety of NZ.
PM Ardern is unlikely to drop in on Expo, given her focus on a forthcoming European trip where, all things going well, she might get to sign the new NZ-UK free trade agreement.