New Zealand’s FM eyes working with UAE on fostering ‘religious tolerance’
By Ibrahim Shukralla
DUBAI, 18th November, 2021 (WAM) – Nanaia Mahuta, New Zealand’s newly appointed Minister of Foreign Affairs, believes that she won’t be the last indigenous woman to hold this position in her country.
The Prime Minister of New Zealand, Jacinda Ardern, appointed Mahuta, a Māori, in November 2020, as the country’s first-ever indigenous female Foreign Minister.
However, due to the government’s COVID-19 elimination strategy, Mahuta was only able to start her foreign trips this month.
The UAE was among the seven countries she chose to visit.
The other countries are Australia, Singapore, Indonesia, Qatar, the US and Canada.
“I certainly won’t be the last,” she told the Emirates News Agency (WAM) in an exclusive interview in Dubai on Thursday when asked about the message that the government of New Zealand intended to convey to the world by appointing her in this position.
“As an indigenous woman, I’m committed to the future of my country, I take on the values of myself and many other women – I want a bigger New Zealand [in terms of inclusiveness], which is going to be good for my children and their children.
I want New Zealand to be a better place,” she explained.
The UAE is New Zealand’s 12th largest trading partner globally.
The bilateral trade between the two countries from September 2020 to September 2021 stood at US$2.
04 billion, a year-on-year increase of 24 percent, according to the New Zealand Embassy in the UAE.
“The opportunity to visit the world Expo is significant to me because it enables New Zealand to strengthen the bilateral relationship with the UAE,” she said at her country’s pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai.
“And importantly, during this period, our Expo experience is profiling the indigenous business and links, so it’s a nice way of reaffirming the relationship with the UAE.
Shortly after the Christchurch mosque terrorist attack that killed 51 people in 2019, the UAE sent an official delegation to express its support.
Mahuta emphasised that religious tolerance is one of the many values that New Zealand and the UAE could work together on to foster in the world.
“The way we work together in terms of countering terrorism and combatting discrimination and racism is very important,” she explained.
“Tolerance and religious tolerance are very important, especially in forming diverse societies in a way that will ensure stability.
Those are the ways where we can work together.
“I look forward to working with the UAE and like-minded partners who want to see greater tolerance and diversity, and inclusive opportunities including economic opportunities in a post-COVID-19 era.
New Zealand and the Gulf Cooperation Council started negotiating the signing of a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) in 2007, but the talks stopped two years later.
When asked about the progress, the Foreign Minister said, “I’ve indicated [in recent discussions] that if we could be forward leaning into the relationship, there will be progress in the area of FTA.
New Zealand adopted a strict COVID-19 strategy, allowing only its citizens or permanent residents to enter the country.
However, it depends on the spaces available in quarantine facilities each week, which means it is still difficult for many to travel home.
The Foreign Minister explained that her country would completely open up and be ready to “re-engage with the world” when it is “a much safer place.