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"We need to stop thinking we’re at the end of the world and everyone is far away from us," Robert Patman said this week.
Prof Patman said New Zealand had "won a lot of admiration for how it responded to both the terror atrocity in Christchurch and the Covid-19 crisis."
"I’d like to see us build on that," he said.
‘We live in an interconnected world where what New Zealand says and does is watched by the rest of the world.
"We need to act like a minor power rather than a small state.
"If we speak our voice internationally, we can build coalitions with countries that agree with us.
"We should be working with countries that we share liberal democratic values with like Canada, Australia, the EU countries and Scandinavia," Prof Patman said.
Exports contributed about 30% of New Zealand’s gross domestic product (GDP), and we relied heavily on the international rules-based order, including the World Trade Organisation.
"Small countries need rules.
"Big countries don’t. They can make their own rules up," the academic scholar said.
New Zealand’s diplomats had performed in a "fantastic" way and successive New Zealand governments had successfully steered a balanced course between the United States and China.
Any superpower actions that undermined the World Trade Organisation were acting against New Zealand’s interests, he said.
Prof Patman, who holds one of Otago’s inaugural Sesquicentennial Distinguished Chairs, hopes that the Covid-19 pandemic will lead to a greater sense of urgency about tackling another global crisis — climate change.
"Climate change is unfolding more slowly than Covid-19 but will have greater consequences," he warned.