“New Zealand must stand up for freedom and democracy and build stronger relationships with countries and people who share our values,” according to ACT Leader David Seymour.

Mr Seymour is taking part in the New Zealand Institute of International Affairs and Council for International Development debate on Trade, Aid and New Zealand’s Place in the World this evening.

“We’ve always operated under the theory that free trade leads to freedom and democracy.

“But even as global trade has expanded, and China has become a bigger part of the global economy, freedom and democracy have diminished.

“According to Freedom House, China is becoming less free, and 2019 was the 14th consecutive year of decline in global freedom. The Economist’s Democracy Index suggests democracy is at its lowest ebb since 2006. Now, the CCP is tightening its grip on power.

“Trading with other countries hasn’t expanded freedom and democracy. That fact should be deeply confronting for liberals. As every businessperson knows, trade and credit depend on trust. On the most basic level, our system depends on all of us adhering to the same rules, rights and responsibilities.

“That is why, on trade, immigration and investment, New Zealand must favour countries who share our values.

“ACT has long supported a free trade and free movement area between Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom (CANZUK).

“Our more recent five-point economic plan proposes investment green lanes for friendly OECD countries. We would abolish the requirement for most investments made by investors from OECD countries to receive Overseas Investment Act approval.

“Recent events in our universities – where, for example, speech has been shut down after pressure from the CCP – are a microcosm of a political voice that says ‘don’t rock the boat’. On the other side are the mindless and morally bankrupt messages of xenophobia.

“Both approaches are fundamentally misguided. We must be prepared to back principles with meaningful action and trust in our values.

“If we don’t stand up for our values – and by ‘we’, I want to be clear, I am including the 250,000 Chinese New Zealanders so underrepresented in our politics – then who will?

“New Zealand must do its part to reinforce freedom and democracy around the world by diversifying our markets and building stronger relationships with those who share our values.”