Trouble on the North West frontier

It was back in 1982, when then-President Ronald Reagan said “freedom and democracy will leave Marxism and Leninism on the ash heap of history”.

Remind me again when that stopped being policy.

Certainly, there was a case for soft-pedalling the rhetoric and crossing fingers when Deng Xiaoping’s China was obediently joining the world economy and making pacific agreements on Hong Kong.

Continue reading “Trouble on the North West frontier”

Covid is now one problem among many 

Yesterday’s announcement that Australia will re-open its international border in November marked another step in the walk-away from zero Covid.

It’s harder in NZ to appreciate the extent to which this is happening.  In England and Wales, the most recent weekly statistics showed 850 deaths with a Covid linkage (although the fact that deaths were 2,000 above the seasonal average is perhaps of more concern).  But there seemed to be more interest in the latest slimming of Covid-bureaucracy to make it easier for Brits to travel.

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New Zealand’s absence from AUKUS is very much part of the debate

The immediate reaction in the UK to the AUKUS announcement was focused less on the UK’s new commitment and more on the lamentations of French politicians at the loss of a $90 billion Australian submarine deal.  It was left to former PM Theresa May to probe unsuccessfully the extent of Britain’s obligation to defend Taiwan.

Chuckles aside, you might think that anything which outrages France and China has something going for it.  

Continue reading “New Zealand’s absence from AUKUS is very much part of the debate”

A NZ-UK trade agreement will be another – albeit small – step in the re-ordering of global trade

There is increasing chatter in London that the NZ-UK trade deal will be announced in days, with invitations to briefings being diaried for Tuesday.

But it’s worth noting that the UK commentators seem to be excising the prefix ‘free’ from the ‘trade agreement’, perhaps reflecting better understanding that these days there is no free trade without a substantial regulatory component.

While NZ’s producers will no doubt be grateful if they get an Australian-style phased reduction of tariffs and quotas as has been briefed, the non-tariff/quota regulatory barriers will be just as important in the long run.

That at least would seem to be the view of the eminent organ, the Irish Farmers Journal, in its assessment of the currently-fraught implementation of free trade arrangements between the EU, Ireland, Northern Ireland and Great Britain (ie, the UK minus Northern Ireland).

Continue reading “A NZ-UK trade agreement will be another – albeit small – step in the re-ordering of global trade”

NZ does better than Australia at Covid messaging but signals a different approach

Jacinda Ardern’s government got better press than Scott Morrison’s when it announced details of its ‘reopening’ strategy earlier this week.

This may seem a surprise given that both governments have no immediate plans to actually reopen – rather the contrary in fact.

Continue reading “NZ does better than Australia at Covid messaging but signals a different approach”

The problem with Australia’s opening plan is that it closes things

Australian PM Scott Morrison is under pressure from a Delta Covid outbreak that just won’t go away and a vaccination programme which – what shall we say – lacks urgency.  

So it’s the right time to bring out a bold long-term plan for re-integrating Australia into the modern world.

Continue reading “The problem with Australia’s opening plan is that it closes things”

Covid casts a long shadow but Singapore’s ministers see light beyond

Believers of logic in policymaking must get frustrated by governments’ wildly diverse, frequently changing and often conflicting Covid responses and ask themselves how long these differences will persist.  Unfortunately the discovery process does require you to make it up as you go along.

This means that the high-vaccinating UK is moving full steam towards unlocking on 19 July, with PM Boris Johnson saying “pretty much life before Covid” is very likely.  A shrewd guess is that this means some manageable adaptations (e.g., vaccine passports) with contingency plans for local restrictions in case of flare-ups.

Continue reading “Covid casts a long shadow but Singapore’s ministers see light beyond”

Climate change policy is not stable – something has to break

Pretty much everything has a breaking point.  The only questions are where, when and how.  Might it be coming soon with climate change policy?

This week there was disarray in the Australian Liberal and National party coalition over the costs of climate change policy.  This was one of the issues which helped sink Malcolm Turnbull’s premiership.  It’s significant because political parties have a big incentive to hide the washing of their dirty linen, certainly until they have agreed an electorally marketable compromise.

And in the UK, Boris Johnson’s Conservatives have been hinting that they might bring forward to 2032 the proposed date to ban the sale of petrol and diesel-powered vehicles. Continue reading “Climate change policy is not stable – something has to break”