New Zealand and the Asia-Europe Meeting: Three Years On
New Zealand, alongside Australia and Russia, formally acceded to the Asia–Europe Meeting (ASEM) in October 2010. This followed fifteen years of drift, a period during which initial strong interest, derailed by the opposition of Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, subsequently became less certain as views of the forum’s utility to New Zealand dimmed. In effect, by the turn of the millennium, the issue of ASEM membership had been kicked into the long grass, where the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade was happy for it to remain until it became clear in mid- 2008 that Australia was pushing strongly for entry and was likely to succeed. This move had wrong-footed MFAT, forcing a rapid rethink of a policy that had rested, among other elements, on a view that New Zealand’s non-membership was acceptable given Australia’s parallel exclusion. The final volte face and scramble for membership was therefore motivated in large part by a fear of marginalisation, a concern that Australian entry would leave New Zealand in the untenable situation of being the only regional state outside the forum.1 Three years on, it is worth considering where New Zealand stands in relation to ASEM. Given its less than wholehearted accession, what benefits does it perceive in participation, and to what extent have these been achieved?