NZ was not part of QUAD talks in Melbourne – but don’t we share the same concerns and values?

US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken has  completed  a  mission  in the  Pacific   that included   visits  to Melbourne, Fiji  and Hawaii, and  high-level talks with ministers  from Australia, India, Japan, and  South  Korea, primarily  on security  issues.

He  was  there, as he told a  press  conference in Melbourne, primarily   on  issues to ensure “a free and open Indo-Pacific.”

Or,   as commentators  said,  to turn back the  threat  of an increasingly aggressive  China  through  the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (QUAD) alliance  consisting  of the US, India, Japan and  Australia.

As   Blinken  argues, the  Indo-Pacific is the most dynamic region in the world, with the three fastest growing economies and half the world’s population.

“People deserve to live freely. Countries deserve to have the freedom to work together and associate with those if they choose. And together we can demonstrate that we are effective in bringing benefits to all of our people”.

The goals  of the QUAD are ones  that NZ once would have subscribed  to and been eager to promote.   But NZ  wasn’t  present in  Melbourne, not even  as  an  observer.

Nor  did  Blinken pay even a  fleeting  visit  to  Wellington.

It’s  not  known  whether  Blinken has  been  invited  to NZ  (though  it  was  the  practice of former governments  to have a  standing  invitation to US Secretaries of State to visit).

Australia’s PM , Scott  Morrison, who  was  involved  in  the QUAD ministers meeting  in  Melbourne,  said at a  press conference  he had  thanked Blinken for being there:

“Yours is the longest distance to travel, but particularly with the other matters that you’re dealing with at the moment, we’re very appreciative of you making this effort”.

Morrison, claiming  to  speak  on behalf of all Australians, said:

“We really do welcome the quality of this partnership and the importance of this partnership.. What we’re talking about here is a world that we have not seen like this  for about 80 years. And we are working together to seek to shape a peaceful environment where all the countries in our region that we work with so closely can enjoy their sovereignty – to not be coerced, to be able to pursue their hopes and aspirations”.

Would NZ not subscribe to that?

“We live in a very fragile, fragmented and contested world, and that is no more accentuated than here in our Indo-Pacific, and the like-minded partners that we see gathered together in this QUAD, I always find so incredibly reassuring.

“I’m reassured by our perspective. I’m reassured by the understanding that is shared between each of us. I am reassured by the incredible, strong support that Australia has received by our QUAD partners, and I just don’t mean in a security context. I mean that in terms of our economic partnership and cooperation. I mean that in our humanitarian partnership.  I mean that in terms of how each of us stands for a world order that favours freedom, and particularly here in a free and open Indo-Pacific.

“The things we discussed today are principally how we will continue to stand up for our values, which combined, which is what unites us most. In doing so, we stand up to those who would seek to coerce us. And  our QUAD partners understand  the coercion and the pressure that Australia has been placed under.

“But we also share a vision for a strong economy, not just regional stability and security. And our engagement in this region, of which we’re so passionate about, because that gives all nations in the region options and choices and opportunities, and enables their sovereignty to be strengthened and respected.

“And we are working together on so many shared projects, which is what the QUAD is all about. Not only, of course, the traditional regional security issues that have bound us together, but our shared partnerships on everything from critical minerals, from new technologies, to expanding our markets together and opening up markets, but also on global challenges, whether they be on climate or on humanitarian issues  and the great challenge of COVID. And that has led so much of the work that has been important to this QUAD partnership”.

Morrison  rounded  off his remarks by  saying  Australia supports a world order that favours freedom through international institutions.

It  was  not  just  security issues   on the QUAD  agenda.  Australia’s Foreign Minister, Marise Payne, said  they also focussed on  maritime security,   cyber  and critical technologies issues, counter-terrorism, and efforts to work together on climate in the region and, importantly, vaccine delivery.

India’s Foreign Minister, Dr S Jaishankar,  told  reporters part  of the  reason  why the QUAD has worked so well  as a global good in the Indo Pacific  (in his Prime Minister’s words) was

“… because our bilateral relations have been very strong and surely I expect progress in our bilateral relations to continue”.

Japan’s  Foreign  Minister, Yoshimasa  Hayashi, said  the Melbourne meeting  had been “extremely  timely”.

He  said Japan’s  Prime Minister   was  looking  forward to hosting the QUAD Leaders’ meeting in Japan in the first half of this year.

Japan-Australia relations had  been taken to new heights, with the Leaders’ VTC Meeting in January and the signing of the Reciprocal Access Agreement.

“Prime Minister Kishida hopes to further develop our bilateral relations”

Blinken  thanked  Morrison for his leadership in advancing the QUAD and demonstrating that the four democracies coming together can produce constructive,  concrete results for all  their people “and indeed beyond”.

“I think what’s so striking to me  is that this is a group of countries brought together not by what we’re against, but what we’re for, and what we’re for, quite simply, is a free and open Indo-Pacific.”

To  a  reporter who asked whether he saw a confrontation with China as inevitable, he replied  he  didn’t.  But he went on to say:

“I think we share concerns that in recent years China has been acting more aggressively, a whole lot more aggressively in the region. And, indeed, potentially beyond. But what brings us together is an affirmative vision for what the future can bring, but also a commitment to defend the rules-based system .And I think the relationship for all of us with China is among the most consequential and most complex of any that we have.”

It  seems  odd  to  Point  of  Order that  NZ  under  its  present  administration  wouldn’t  subscribe  to  that  view.

In  an  earlier  age,  NZ   government  would have  wanted to  be a member  of    the  QUAD alliance – or  at  least to have sought official  observer status.

The  question is  whether   some elements in the  Ardern  government   think  Australia  has become  too militant  in its attitude to China?

2 thoughts on “NZ was not part of QUAD talks in Melbourne – but don’t we share the same concerns and values?

  1. We no longer have an eye, an ear, let alone a voice in councils where matters of vital importance to our future are discussed. That is a hugely damning verdict on New Zealand’s international standing under this government.

    Like

  2. When the PM and Minister of National Security and Intelligence was previously the President of the International Union of Socialist Youth and is set on introducing Marxism. I think I would be careful about the invitations.

    Liked by 1 person

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