Parliament is back in action this week after a busy three-week recess.
I was honoured and privileged to represent New Zealand at the Anzac Day commemorations in Gallipoli, Turkey last week as the Minister of Veterans’ Affairs.
It was a truly moving and emotional experience, stepping foot in a place where so many New Zealanders fought and died for our country.
I gave three speeches and attended a number of different international services. I was proud to see the large crowds there – around 6,000 people, mostly young Australians and New Zealanders.
It was also great to catch up with Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard and getting to know many of the local Turkish officials and politicians. They do a wonderful job hosting these memorial services every year, and treating this sacred land with the respect and care it deserves.
I also spent a few days in China in my role as Minister of Immigration. China is the world’s most populous country with 1.3 billion people, and soon they may be the world’s largest economy.
The scale of things happening in China was mindblowing, with huge motorways, new airports and buildings springing up everywhere.
There is no doubt that China will have a big impact on the 21st century and that this offers a huge range of opportunities to New Zealand. Ties between the two nations are growing at all levels, everything from rugby exchanges to increased direct passenger flights and growing tourist numbers to New Zealand.
As China continues to modernise we can expect to have more demand for our products and services such as food, wine and tourism.
A good example of this is attracting international students to study in New Zealand. The Government has an ambitious goal of doubling the economic value of New Zealand's international education sector to $5 billion over the next 15 years. China will play a big part in this, as around one in four international students to New Zealand come from China.
New Zealand was the first western country to sign a Free Trade Agreement with China in 2008 which has seen trade grow strongly for the benefit of both nations. In fact, China is now our second largest trading partner.
Prime Minister John Key also made a state visit to Indonesia recently, which is another fast-growing country with a population of nearly 240 million people.
For New Zealand to grow and prosper in the coming decades, it will be very important that we are well connected to these fast-growing economies.