The APEC summit – opportunities will be missed because our govt opted to make it a virtual occasion

Has  the  New  Zealand  government  made  a  diplomatic   blunder  in  converting  the APEC summit  it  is due to  host in July to a virtual event?

If  it had been  delayed  and NZ had called  a  leaders’  summit  in November,  this  country   would  have had  presidents  such as Russia’s Vladimir Putin,  the US’s  Joe Biden and China’s President  Xi  Jinping together  in Auckland.  This  would  have drawn the  global  media’s attention  to  NZ and  the  country would have  been punching above its  weight in international diplomacy.

And NZ’s  Jacinda  Ardern would have been seen  truly as a member of the  world   leadership  club.

In    bilateral  meetings  during the summit, Ardern may have succeeded in  focussing  Biden on  the  need  for  a  free trade  agreement between the  US  and  NZ or  with  China’s Xi  on how  to  build  on the $30bn target for  two-way trade.

In   hosting APEC  in person  she may even have been  able  to  influence  an  armistice  in the  trade  war  between the US  and  China.

APEC  could  have  become  a  launching  pad  for global  recovery   from the  Covid  pandemic.

As  trade  expert  Charles Finny  sees  it, the  big  value of  APEC is the senior level  interaction  and the  private  discussions that  are held on the  sidelines.

“None  of that can  really happen online, in my  view”.

Auckland  will  miss out  on  hosting  the  21  Pacific  Rim  countries.  The summit  would have  drawn thousands  of  officials, trade  experts  and lobbyists  to  the  city, enabling  hotels  and the  hospitality industry  to regain some of  the economic  benefit  lost  during Covid  lockdowns.

Even  the  senior officials  meeting,  known as  Som, which has been  taking  place in recent weeks, in other  times would have attracted  2000 people  to the  city.

The  question  being  asked  is whether  Ardern – in concentrating  so  heavily   on the  impact  of  Covid-19  on  the  country – has misjudged  the   potential  for   real   and  substantial   diplomatic gains  coming  from the personal interaction   with  world leaders.

Indeed  there  is  some  concern  that   damaging  tensions  have   been  allowed  to  creep  into  relations  with our  closest friend  and ally Australia   partly through  the anti-Covid pandemic. The  trans-Tasman   bubble   has   not  eventuated, though  earlier  it  had seemed  it  might  begin in March.  Australia’s  Scott  Morrison has indicated  he  would  go  ahead  with  the  bubble,  but Ardern  is  still  determined to  “eliminate”  Covid  (and  she  is supported by the majority of  New Zealanders).

Earlier the  trans-Tasman   tension was exacerbated  when Export Trade  Minister Damien O’Connor   advised  Australia  “to follow us  and show more respect”  to  China  and Foreign Minister  Nanaia Mahuta suggested  NZ  could act  as  mediator between  China and  Australia.

The  bad  press  those  ministers  got  in  Australia  was  compounded  when Ardern’s sidekick on Covid,  Chris Hipkins,  was  reported as  saying  that Australia, through its deportees to  NZ,  was sending its garbage back across the Tasman.  Ardern had to  get on the  blower smartly  to Morrison to cool things down   before  spanking  her ministers.

2 thoughts on “The APEC summit – opportunities will be missed because our govt opted to make it a virtual occasion

  1. The Wiggles, countless sailing supporters, film crews and stars and The Lion King Musicial cast are allowed in but international leaders aren’t. Well done Jacinda, glad you to see you have got New Zealand’s best interests at heart.


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