Heavy diplomatic schedule will take Winston Peters to Europe, Port Moresby and Singapore

Endless international travel is the lot of a foreign minister and Winston Peters has more than his quota this week and next.  With Prime  Minister Jacinda Ardern  restricted   by her family  circumstances  in  carrying  out  her  share  of   NZ’s  representational  duties,  Peters  has  to step  up  his  diplomatic  programme  as  the itinerary  for   his  mission to  the  northern  hemisphere underlines.

He has a heavy  schedule in  four  European capitals,  which  will then  be followed   by  an  equally intense progamme at  the APEC  forum  in Port  Moresby and other crucial meetings in Singapore.

There’s  little   doubt  Peters  is thriving  in  his  diplomatic  work  and  displaying  remarkable stamina  with  the   programme in  Europe.

First,  he is  set to open  NZ’s rehabilitated  embassy  in  Stockholm,  which  Peters – in his  first incarnation  as  Foreign Minister – had  nominated  as  a   priority. It was discarded  by a successor  for  budgetary  reasons which coincided with  NZ’s bid  for a seat  on the UN  Security  Council, an effort which called for  a heavy allocation of  resources from the ministry.

Stockholm  said  maybe not  to  NZ’s bid, but Madrid  said yes, so the  embassy in Spain survived.

From  Stockholm,  Peters     swings  into   Paris  to  represent  NZ at  the  centennial    commemoration  of  end of  World War on November 11, which  includes  a   grand banquet hosted by President Emanuel Macron. There might be views to be shared – Macron’s centrist party embarrassingly fell behind France’s ultra-right wing party in a recent opinion poll  – and an oversight on how NZ is faring with an FTA with the European Union.

It  will be  a  test   of  Peters’   skill   (and charm)   if  he  can  get  Macron  to  show  more   than   his current lukewarm interest    in  how  an EU-NZ  trade pact  can be shaped to  mutual  advantage,  and speedily  concluded.

Peters    will  also  be  keenly  interested  in how Paris views this week’s referendum in New Caledonia where the remainers won a modest victory.

Next,  he moves  to London and equally   substantive business as Theresa May’s Conservative Government grapples with  both  the  broad    political  sweep of  Brexit  and  the   vexatious  minutiae  which  scupper the deal of Brexit.   One  of  Peters’  key meetings   is  with  Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt,  with  whom  he  will be  pressing  the  case —- particularly  if there is  a hard  Brexit  that  shuts  down food import  volumes  from  across the  Channel  —  that  NZ  farmers  can  come to the  rescue.

Peters  will   relish the  opportunity  to  underline  how important  NZ  can  be  in the  post-Brexit rebalancing,  and at   the  same  time   display  the   diplomatic   finesse,   which has  made  him a   favourite  with  international  figures  like  Condoleeza Rice in the   Bush  administration  and  Mike Pompeo  in the Trump administration.  Hunt  has invited  Peters as  his  guest  at   Twickenhma  for the  All  Blacks encounter with England.

If this  weren’t  sufficient,  Peters    tops  off the   mission  in Ireland where he is scheduled to meet the Irish Government and open NZ’s newest European embassy in Dublin.

Needless to say there has been a lineout length of former NZ politicians anxious to exercise their Emerald Isle associations but, true to form, Peters  has preferred a professional, Brad Burgess, for the job. Burgess is well placed as Free Trade Agreement Lead Negotiator and TPP Deputy Chief Negotiator at MFAT. He has also previously been seconded to the Department of International Trade in the UK to work on FTA policy post-Brexit.

NOTE: We have corrected a reference to Macron’s centrist party being bested in European elections by France’s ultra-right wing party.

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