New Zealand and Japan mark 70th anniversary of diplomatic relations

The bilateral diplomatic relationship between Japan and New Zealand commenced on 28 April 1952 with the entering into force of the San Francisco Peace Treaty. The New Zealand Embassy in Japan was New Zealand’s first diplomatic mission in Asia, and was closely followed by the establishment of the Japanese Embassy in New Zealand.

What does this year represent in the seven decades long relationship between both countries?

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern: “This year marks the 70th anniversary of our diplomatic relations.  We have so much to celebrate together. Over seven decades we have built an incredibly successful, close and resilient relationship. Literally millions of Japanese people and New Zealanders have visited, studied in and worked in each other’s countries.”

Hamish Cooper, New Zealand Ambassador to Japan: “For seven decades, New Zealand and Japan have worked together as partners who share common democratic values and a commitment to support the international rules-based system.”

“New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and her Japanese counterpart Prime Minister Kishida commemorated the anniversary in April in Tokyo, reflecting on the past and looking ahead to future opportunities to collaborate.”

How important are the trade and economic relations between Japan and New Zealand?

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern: “Our trade relationship is worth around NZ$8 billion annually, making Japan New Zealand’s fourth largest trading partner.  Prior to the pandemic Japan was New Zealand’s second-largest Asian visitor market and third largest source of students.”

This year marks the 70th anniversary of our diplomatic relations. We have so much to celebrate together. Over seven decades we have built an incredibly successful, close and resilient relationship.

Prime Minister of New Zealand Jacinda Ardern

Damien O’Connor, Minister for Trade and Export Growth: “New Zealand’s well-being is inextricably tied to the Indo-Pacific – which we see as our wider home region. We have benefitted from the stability and economic growth that the rules-based order, regional organizations and economic integration have provided in the region.”

“In particular we will keep working with Japan to shape regional economic architecture through CPTPP, APEC and RCEP.  Japan was a key partner for us last year when we hosted APEC, and worked to support regional supply chains and free trade in essential goods and medicines.”

“I want to reaffirm that my Government values and welcomes Japanese investment in New Zealand. Japanese companies have a strong track record of investing for the long term, empowering local communities, making products more valuable, and providing New Zealand exporters with global connections. These factors make Japan a special and valuable economic partner for New Zealand. And as an open market with a regulatory environment that supports innovation, New Zealand is an ideal home for Japanese technology, investment and research.”

Craig Pettigrew, Trade Commissioner: “The enormous supply chain and logistics challenges which many of our traders have faced must be acknowledged.  But it is gratifying to note that the most recent trade statistics suggest that goods exports from New Zealand to Japan during the first four months of 2022 increased by 33%, compared to the same period last year.  Likewise, Japan’s goods exports to New Zealand are off to a positive start this year, with a 28% increase during the first quarter, year-on-year.”

“New Zealand and Japan share an intense focus in high quality food standards.  That has been a firm foundation for building complementary seasonal horticulture partnerships.  For example: New Zealand’s Zespri is licensing and supporting Japanese growers to produce kiwifruit counter-seasonally to improve year-round supply; and Budou Senshin is growing premium Japanese varieties of table grapes in Hawke’s Bay to provide counter seasonal supply to Japan and other Asian markets.”

What are the positions of both countries with regard to climate change and renewable energy?

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern: “The drive to decarbonize our economies is also creating promising and substantial new opportunities. Climate change is an existential challenge that will require us to significantly transform our economies for a low-carbon future. Through further cooperation on renewable energy and green technology, Japan and New Zealand can support each other to achieve our shared goal of net carbon neutrality by 2050.”

Hamish Cooper, New Zealand Ambassador to Japan: “New Zealand and Japan are working together to help meet our respective goals of net carbon neutrality by 2050.  Obayashi Corporation and Mitsui & Co are both working with New Zealand companies on green hydrogen projects in New Zealand.  In the geothermal energy sector, New Zealand’s below surface engineering capabilities directly complement Japan’s above ground engineering, and together we can significantly increase supply of this renewable energy.”

What are your perspectives on people-to-people exchange, tourism, education, sports and cultural relations between the two pacific countries?

In sports, New Zealand and Japan share a love of sport. In particular, for more than 50 years rugby has been bringing New Zealanders and Japanese closer together.  In the 1960s, Sakata Yoshihiro was a pioneer in the rugby relationship and played for Canterbury for 27 games scoring 30 tries. Himeno Kazuki was a stand-out player for the Highlanders in Super Rugby Aotearoa 2021, and New Zealand coaches Jamie Joseph and Tony Brown continue their good work with the Brave Blossoms rugby team.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern: “People are at the heart of the bilateral relationship. With the reopening of New Zealand’s border on 2 May 2022, we look forward to getting back to welcoming visitors, students, workers and businesspeople between our two countries.  We share with Japan the value of what we called “manaakitanga“, or “omotenashi”, and we are eager to offer our warm hospitality to you all again. Please, consider this a personal invitation.”

“According to the Asia New Zealand Foundation’s report on New Zealanders’ perceptions of Asia, New Zealanders view Japan as the friendliest country in Asia. Research from New Zealand Story also found that Japanese consumers value our care, our openness, our transparency.”

People are at the heart of the bilateral relationship. With the reopening of New Zealand’s border on 2 May 2022, we look forward to getting back to welcoming visitors, students, workers and businesspeople between our two countries.

Prime Minister of New Zealand Jacinda Ardern

Lisa Futschek, General Manager – International, Education New Zealand: “Education has played a vital role in our bilateral linkages over many decades, fostering people to people ties and reinforcing shared values between our two countries.”

“Before the pandemic, more than 10,000 students from Japan studied in New Zealand every year, making an important economic contribution, but also enriching our schools and communities, and helping New Zealand students become more globally connected.”

“New Zealand offers overseas international students a unique, high-quality education experience in a welcoming environment. We truly care for the students who choose a New Zealand education and we want to ensure everyone feels respected, thought of, nurtured and safe.”

Gregg Wafelbakker, General Manager Asia, Tourism New Zealand: “There’s so much to discover around every corner in Aotearoa, with each region and season offering travellers a unique perspective of New Zealand.  Traditionally Japanese visitors have loved coming to New Zealand to experience our wonderful nature and world heritage sites as well as our spectacular night sky in the South Island. I think there is still plenty to be discovered though and more and more we are seeing Japanese visitors wanting to get off the beaten track and seek out their own unique experiences, which is great to see. In particular I would encourage Japanese visitors to explore our cities and check out our cafes and restaurants.”

There’s so much to discover around every corner in Aotearoa, with each region and season offering travelers a unique perspective of New Zealand.

Gregg Wafelbakker, General Manager Asia, Tourism New Zealand

Hamish Cooper, New Zealand Ambassador to Japan: “People-to-people connections have greatly benefited from Japan’s long-term investment in initiatives like the JET programme, education scholarships, and sister city relationships.  More than 3,300 New Zealanders have participated in the JET Programme, which has created a rich constituency for Japan in New Zealand.  Pre-COVID, 115,000 Japanese visited New Zealand every year, including 10,000 students and 3,000 young people under the Working Holiday Scheme.  There are more than 40 sister city links between New Zealand and Japan; the oldest was established in 1972 between Christchurch and Kurashiki.”

How are Japan and New Zealand working closely in Pacific Island countries and on a security and defense partnership?

Hamish Cooper, New Zealand Ambassador to Japan: “New Zealand and Japan have committed to strengthening development assistance to support the economic and social development of Pacific Island countries.  One example is the Pacific Climate Change Centre in Samoa, which is a key regional hub and center of excellence to support climate change action in the Pacific.  This was established in 2019 through joint New Zealand-Japan support.”

“New Zealand and Japan are building a pragmatic security and defense partnership with more integrated defense, security and strategic links, enabling closer cooperation on regional and global security issues. This includes in the Pacific Islands region, where we are discussing cooperation in areas of strength for New Zealand, including maritime security, Women, Peace and Security initiatives, humanitarian and disaster relief, and capacity building activities related to climate change.”

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