Standing Up for Freedom Abroad

Protecting the safety of its citizens is the government’s first and most important job.

Foreign affairs, trade and defence

ACT believes that New Zealand’s foreign policy needs to ensure the safety of our citizens abroad, and that our priorities on the international stage should reflect our interests and values at home, including human rights, individual freedoms, and the values underpinning democracy.

As a small trading nation, New Zealand should advocate for the long-established rules-based international order, leading with diplomacy to enhance our place in the world. The rules-based international order is a system that helps countries resolve differences peacefully, coordinate multilateral efforts, and participate in global commerce with the assurance that everyone is following the same rules.

That means New Zealand needs to develop strong diplomatic ties around the world to advocate for the values that we believe in and call out those that are inconsistent. We have often been at the forefront of advocating this approach. However, we cannot rely on faith alone.

ACT believes that New Zealand should continue to advance trade liberalisation and free trade agreements to support the exchange of goods, services, and ideas around the world and we should build strong alliances with like-minded countries backed by adequate investment in our defence capabilities to ensure New Zealand’s security.

New Zealand should work with our allies and partners to fearlessly stand up for the rule of law, the values of democracy, individual freedom, and favour market-based economies. Our partnerships are also a key factor in maximising our defence capabilities and standing – New Zealand is a small nation, but the combined weight of our alliances gives us a position of strength, and a greater voice in international diplomacy. New Zealand should not enable or encourage adversaries to drive a wedge between us and our allies.

Our foreign policy should also reflect our position as a small nation in the Pacific. ACT would focus our resources on our neighbours and concentrate its aid budget on those whose prosperity and security benefits us all. ACT would ensure that New Zealand’s Official Development Assistance (ODA) budget is used effectively to create real change while minimising wastage and creating better accountability.

ACT believes that our safety in the world is strengthened by enhancing our partnerships and building on the common ground that we have with nations and organisations. With such arrangements, New Zealand can successfully promote freedom and openness in the Asia-Pacific region.

ACT will:

  • Maintain and strengthen our diplomatic ties around the world to uphold the rules-based international order
  • Continue to lead the world with our relationships throughout Asia
  • Advocate for liberal principles such as free trade, freedom of expression, equality, and the rule of law
  • Prioritise the return of safe travel networks with global partners in the coming months and years to ensure a return to international travel when it is safe to do so
  • Emphasise our role as a leading democracy in the region; Official Development Assistance (ODA) should be focused and directed into the South Pacific


New Zealand is a trading nation. Our wealth depends on importing goods and services we cannot produce cheaply, while exporting those we can produce efficiently to overseas markets. For New Zealand, like any country, free trade allows for greater opportunities to mutually increase prosperity.

Trade liberalisation and free trade agreements drive growth, while reducing costs to consumers and increasing productivity – a key indicator for the quality of life enjoyed by all New Zealanders.

Free trade has been the driving force behind the increase in living standards across the world and has lifted hundreds of millions of people out of poverty. For New Zealand, lower trade barriers allow us to sell our products to the world on equal terms.

ACT has always been the strongest proponent of free trade in Parliament. We have been a reliable supporter of free trade agreements, giving governments of all stripes the numbers to confidently negotiate them.

ACT will:

  • Advocate for further trade agreements with new partners, for example the European Union and the United States, which will allow businesses to be more competitive and create jobs
  • Continue to support bilateral and multilateral free trade agreements, as these form the basis of New Zealand’s prosperity
  • Continue to push for barrier-free entry into the United Kingdom, European Union and India while seeking to reduce barriers in multilateral forums such as the WTO, APEC, and ASEAN

Defence and security

New Zealand’s defence policy should be based on protecting New Zealanders and their interests at home and abroad, and we need to ensure that our Defence Force has the capability to undertake a range of humanitarian missions.

We also need to be aware of the changing international environment where, for example, new strategic risks have emerged such as cybersecurity issues. New Zealand could look to the strategies deployed by other small nations such as Taiwan and Estonia, which are leading the world in this area.

New Zealand cannot do it alone, and we need to emphasise our commitment to our Five Eyes partners.

ACT will:

  • Work on bolstering our existing security alliances, such as the Five Eyes
  • Ensure that the New Zealand Defence Force is sufficiently resourced to undertake a range of humanitarian and disaster relief operations.