TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — New Zealand’s foreign affairs ministry has responded to Taiwan Foreign Minister Joseph Wu’s (吳釗燮) call for the country to invest more in the Pacific to combat growing Chinese influence.
When asked if Taiwan would like to see New Zealand do more to combat China’s influence in the Pacific in an interview with TVNZ on Sunday (April 7), Wu responded with an emphatic yes.
“I hope New Zealand can make more investment in the Pacific countries,” Wu said. “If like-minded countries like New Zealand, Australia and the U.S. increase their investment in the Pacific, they can help Pacific Island countries reduce their dependence on China,” he said.
“I think the United States and Australia have been doing that, they have been increasing their investment in the Pacific rapidly, and I certainly hope New Zealand can also consider that approach,” Wu said.
Three days after Wu’s comments, the Australian government released a budget allocating US$1.35 billion (NT$41.46 billion) to the Pacific to expand economic and security ties, per ABC Australia.
A New Zealand foreign ministry spokesperson told Taiwan News on Wednesday (April 10) that the country has been spending more in the Pacific. “Aotearoa New Zealand has been continually lifting its engagement in our region by deepening our partnerships with Pacific countries, increasing our development assistance in the region and coordinating efforts with other donors,” the spokesperson said.
In recent years, New Zealand has reorganized its Pacific foreign policy under a values-based approach that seeks to “develop a sense of community based on trust and partnership,” and identifies climate change as the biggest threat to the Pacific.
Lowy Institute Pacific Islands researcher Mihai Sora told Taiwan News that New Zealand is a vocal actor on climate change issues globally and in the Pacific, but that Wu had correctly identified the need for more New Zealand investment to counter Chinese influence. “Climate change action is not going to be a substitute for trade and investment, Pacific Island countries need both,” Sora said.
Wu also had a warning for New Zealand regarding its trade relations with China, the country’s biggest trade partner. “New Zealand’s trade with China is perfectly harmless, but we need to be aware that someday China might use this as a weapon against New Zealand to change your national course,” he said.
Concerns about New Zealand’s overreliance on Chinese trade have grown in recent years, though at the top government level, both New Zealand and Australia continue to stress the importance of their economic relationships with their biggest trading partner.
Wu also noted recent exchanges between Taiwan and New Zealand at various governmental levels. The New Zealand foreign ministry spokesperson did not directly respond to Taiwan News’ queries about this, but said New Zealand’s “substantial economic and cultural exchanges with Taiwan” operate under its one China policy.
In March, New Zealand established a non-partisan parliamentary working group on Taiwan that aims to deepen economic exchanges between the two countries.
Wu has engaged in multiple interviews with major national broadcasters of democratic countries in the last month, discussing the war in Ukraine, and encouraging resistance to China’s expansion.