“I did not think I would use rugby diplomacy in Spain”


Photo: AR


Andrew Jenks / New Zealand’s Ambassador


Alberto Rubio. 30/10/2017


Andrew Jenks has been New Zealand’s Ambassador to Spain for a few months. As expert in European affairs, his objective is to promote relations with Spain and the EU. However, what he will not forget is the special and even ‘magical’ moment he experienced: the presentation of the Princess of Asturias Award in the category of Sports granted to the All Blacks.


What does this award mean to New Zealand?

Frankly, there were not many New Zealanders that knew about the Princess of Asturias Award. When the All Blacks found out about it, they obviously felt very honoured, but they learned about its importance through our Embassy. When they arrived in Oviedo, they were surprised by the welcome of the people, the King, the Government… That is why they performed the ‘Haka’: as a unique token gesture for the King and Spain. They made the decision in situ. It was an additional element that they normally would not include.

Furthermore, they found around one hundred children waiting for them in Gijón. That was incredible. From that moment on, they ‘adopted’ them. They feel like they have made a good contribution to rugby in Spain and we hope that continues.


It looks like a good form of diplomacy.

Yes. ‘Rugby diplomacy’ is very important for New Zealand. When I was assigned to Spain I did not think I would have the chance to use it. I am very thankful to the Foundation for choosing the All Blacks and to New Zealand’s rugby for responding as it did.


Are diplomatic relations changing?

After the Second World War, when international organizations such as the UN or the World Bank were constituted, diplomacy started being different. The same is happening now: political diplomacy is still important, but the economy has greater recognition now. One cannot be separated from the other.


In the end everything serves to promote the country’s image, right?

It is true, in particular for New Zealand. We are a small country and when it comes to world politics, we rarely are at the front line. However, in business politics, we are an influential player. In the last 50 years, we have had very good diplomats that have played an impressive role in multilateral organizations. That is due, partly, to who we are -a small country considered to be impartial-, but also to the membership of the UK, which was our main market, of the EU. It was painful, but it made us more efficient, more competitive.


New Zealand is part of a very dynamic market, such as that of Asia-Pacific. Has the centre of the world economy changed?

It is already happening, because we have the United States on one side of the Pacific and China on the other one. We also have the economies of the Asian Southeast -which have high growth potential- and Latin America, which starts moving. Europe is a very important market to New Zealand and to the entire world. As a whole, it is still the world’s wealthiest markets, the difference is that the countries of the Pacific have great growth potential.


Will there be a Free Trade Agreement EU-New Zealand soon?

Negotiations have not started yet. We are waiting for the EU’s order this year to set them in motion.

The centre of the economic world is moving towards Asia-Pacific, but that does not take importance away from Europe. One of its advantages is its high degree of development. Markets of the Pacific have to go a long way to develop areas in which Europe has a great competitive advantage. We see many opportunities related to the EU. I am talking about politics and economy, but also about values. When we negotiate a trade agreement, is much more than that: it includes areas, such as human rights or sustainable development, in which we have many coincidences.


What is the relationship with Spain?

Although I knew Spain before coming, I was surprised how similar our way of thinking, perceiving values, and character is. I was also surprised that Spanish infrastructures or renewable energy companies are among the best in the world. New Zealand can benefit from this Spanish experience.


How can Spain benefit from New Zealand?

Our exchanges are increasing. More and more companies from New Zealand establish regional headquarters in Spain, because it has qualified workforce, which is cheaper than in other countries. For these companies, whose objective is the EU, the Middle East or the North of Africa, it is very good. Besides, Spain is a very good market itself.

Looking in the opposite direction, for Spanish companies, New Zealand is a good destination facing Asia-Pacific because of our experience and because we are a small market, but relatively wealthy. Some infrastructures companies can have interesting opportunities, since our government intends to increase investments in infrastructures or renewable energy.


Tell me about tourism.

It is a very important sector and this year has been one of the most productive. We have factors that help. For example, the films of The Lord of the Rings or the tourism campaign 100% Pure New Zealand, which has been successfully in motion for ten years and we have not changed. These have spread New Zealand’s image as 100% pure, a nature country, welcoming. In Spain and Europe, many see it as something mythical that they must visit at some point in their lives. The only problem is that, for Europeans, which have so many wonderful places on their doorstep, travelling for 30 hours requires great determination.



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