Ambassador speaks on global economy

Expanding global markets, reducing barriers to trade and working through multilateral institutions such as the United Nations and World Trade Organization are the best ways for the United States to work with small countries like New Zealand in making the world a safer place, New Zealand Ambassador John Wood said Monday night.

In a lecture to about 50 students and several administrators, including Dean of Students Faith Leonard, Wood said that as the representative of a small country that poses "no threat to any other country," he is a staunch supporter of free trade and security cooperation. He argued that it is through cooperation that global standards of living are improved. He has been New Zealand's ambassador to the United States since January 2002.

The speech, held in the University Club on the first floor of the Mary Graydon Center, was sponsored by the Kennedy Political Union. It is the last KPU event of the semester, Director Eric Morley said.

In a lengthy explanation of New Zealand's foreign policy beliefs, Wood cited the real and serious threat posed by weapons of mass destruction, of instability in Southeast Asia - "one of the most dangerous areas of the world" - and of major powers, including the United States, flirting with the development of tactical nuclear weapons, which are smaller and more prone to proliferation than normal nuclear warheads.

A country approximately the size of Colorado, New Zealand has worked closely with the United States in Afghanistan, at first supplying special forces soldiers to help dismantle the Taliban and now administering an entire province - a larger contribution than any other country relative to its size, Wood said.

Though New Zealand opposed the war in Iraq, believing instead that military action should always be sanctioned by the U.N., it has since contributed both soldiers and engineers to the reconstruction effort, he said, adding that one of its soldiers was badly wounded when the U.N. headquarters in Baghdad was bombed in September. New Zealand has also pledged $10 million in aid and helped with de-mining operations and the rebuilding of bridges, hospitals, agricultural infrastructure and pipelines.

A career diplomat and economist, Wood also said that trade is the key to any country's success or despair, noting that for New Zealand, "my country lives or dies by trade."

Rejecting the arguments of anti-globalization protesters who argue that the World Trade Organization, International Monetary Fund, World Bank and other multilateral trade and economic policy groups create policies that make wealthy countries richer at the expense of less-developed nations, Wood argued that in any country where trade - especially free trade - was expanded, standards of living always increase. Weak nations especially, he said, benefit from such multilateral institutions, since they are increasingly being given a real seat at negotiating tables that they would otherwise be without.

"Being weak is not an accusation for us," he said. "It's a fact of life"

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