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The commercial relationship began to develop in the 1950s as the USSR became a worthwhile trading partner of New Zealand, buying significant quantities of New Zealand meat, wool and dairy products from time to time.  In  1955 and 1956 the first discussions took place between the two sides on the conclusion of a possible Trade Agreement.  Work on this Agreement was, however, put to one side by New Zealand in response to the Soviet invasion of Hungary.

Through the 1950s a degree of political contact was maintained. The most notable event in this period was the visit to the USSR in 1960 of the New Zealand Labour Prime Minister, Walter Nash, during which he met the Soviet leader, N.S. Krushchev, at Gagra.  This visit was a signal by Mr Nash of his wish that New Zealand be seen to be developing a more independent foreign policy.  It was also an important opportunity for the Prime Minister to pursue a principal concern of his, nuclear disarmament, and, in particular, to advance the New Zealand case that the 1958 de facto moratorium on nuclear testing should be formalised into a permanent ban.

With the return to power of a National Government in 1960, led by Keith Holyoake, New Zealand policy towards the USSR became somewhat cooler, as the new Government focused its attention differently on the major international foreign policy issues of the day.  Yet cautious progress was still made on the New Zealand side.  Work was resumed on the Bilateral Trade Agreement, and it was eventually signed in August 1963.  Its main feature was that each side accorded the other Most Favourable Nation (MFN) status.  In the 1960s, helped by this Agreement, trade became more regular.

In November 1972 a Labour Government was returned to power in New Zealand under Prime Minister Norman Kirk.  The new Prime Minister signalled new directions in New Zealand’s foreign policy.  In a statement on “New Zealand in the World of the 1970s”, issued on 22 December 1972, the Prime Minister said that his Government would soon be examining the question of reopening the New Zealand Mission in Moscow.  Explaining his decision, Mr Kirk said that there were now four Great Powers involved in the affairs of Asia and the Pacific – the United States, Japan, China and the Soviet Union.  Each was playing an active and independent role and each expected its friends to look after themselves more than in the past.  In this situation, Mr Kirk said, it was essential for a small country such as New Zealand to be in a position to deal directly with all four Powers: “We must keep ourselves informed of what they are thinking and doing.  Our national interests also require that we have the means of making our views known, and getting them heard, by the Great Powers.”



 

Russia - New Zealand History

Russian knowledge of New Zealand and the Maori dates from the late seventeenth century. New Zealand was the first region of Polynesia of which the Russians had authoritative data, all collected from the Dutch. The Dutch material was complemented in the later eighteenth century by primary accounts of Captain James Cook's several visits to that country and his lengthy stays within Queen Charlotte Sound.
In 1808 and 1814, the first Russian encounters with the Maori took place at Cape Town and Sydney. Though the officers of the Diana and Suvorov found the Maoris from the Bay of Islands (Matara, Ruatara, Hongi Hika, and others) intellectually quick and very friendly, they could not think of them other than as recent and potential cannibals.
The reports of Cook and his associates, published in German, French, and Russian, reinforced this association. Nonetheless, a Russian expedition led by Captain F.F. Bellingshausen paid a visit to Queen Charlotte Sound in 1820, using Cook's charts and accounts. It proved to be most important from the standpoint of ethnology, and was useful for the visitors as well, who were amply supplied with food. Glynn Barratt, Russia and the South Pacific, 1696-1840, Volume 2, University of British Columbia Press, 1988

Stuart Prior, Honorary Consul for Belarus in New Zealand

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