How to sort out our differences with China – sometimes it’s best done in private, says the PM

Neither dragons nor taniwha were mentioned when the PM addressed the China Business Summit.  Nor did we learn anything fresh about New Zealand’s foreign and trade policy.

Jacinda Ardern kicked off by setting out three key messages.

  • China’s geostrategic relevance is a reality that no country can ignore;
  • New Zealand and China have very different perspectives on some issues, and managing those differences effectively calls for hard work; and
  • Opportunities continue for New Zealand and China to work together, particularly in international trade, environment and climate change, and in their response to the global pandemic.

She acknowledged that New Zealand’s relationship with China is one of our most significant.

Our Comprehensive Strategic Partnership continues to provide a strong foundation for the relationship.  We remain committed to our one China policy. Continue reading “How to sort out our differences with China – sometimes it’s best done in private, says the PM”

Mahuta gives money to help Covid-ravaged Indians (but not nearly as much as will be spent on helping the locals at Franz Josef)

We were encouraged to learn the government is providing support to India in response to the devastating COVID-19 situation facing the country.

Our PM will have the wellbeing of a billion or so people in mind (although unlike  China, the Indians don’t buy nearly enough of our exports and hence can be treated differently in shaping our foreign policy ).

Foreign Minister Nanaia Mahuta announced today.

“We stand in solidarity with India at this difficult time,and commend the tireless efforts of India’s frontline medics and healthcare workers who are working hard to save lives.”

We will contribute NZ $1 million to the International Federation of the Red Cross to assist India while they respond to the current surge in COVID-19 cases.

Generous?

The previous Beehive statement came from Economic and Regional Development Minister Stuart Nash, who  advised us he was dipping into Provincial Development Unit funding for $9.23m for the first phase of flood protection work in the Franz Josef community.

Charity should begin at home, of course. Continue reading “Mahuta gives money to help Covid-ravaged Indians (but not nearly as much as will be spent on helping the locals at Franz Josef)”

Dragons-and-taniwha speech raises questions about NZ’s future in Five Eyes – and about the extent of Cabinet’s endorsement

Question of the Week:  Will  New Zealand  be  expelled  from Five  Eyes,  following  Nanaia Mahuta’s  speech  on  foreign policy?

NZ Herald’s  political editor  Audrey  Young,  in  a  report  on  Thursday,  wrote:

“NZ  faces the  prospect  of  expulsion   from  the  Five Eyes intelligence alliance, according  to Con Coughlin, defence editor for  the  Daily Telegraph in the  UK.

Coughlin   said  attempts by the other Five  Eyes  countries  (Britain, the  US, Canada  and  Australia) to present a  united  front  against  China  have been thwarted by the  NZ  government’s  preference for  maintaining  cordial ties with  Beijing.

He  referred  to  Jacinda  Ardern  as  “NZ’s  tiresomely woke Prime Minister”, saying  she has a preference  for  “cosying up to China’s  communist rulers”.

“Thanks to  Wellington’s  naïve  decision to prioritise trade  with China over its membership of the elite  Five Eyes intelligence-sharing  network, Ardern  can expect her country’s isolation to deepen even further as  NZ  faces  the very real prospect of expulsion  over its pro-Beijing stance”.     Continue reading “Dragons-and-taniwha speech raises questions about NZ’s future in Five Eyes – and about the extent of Cabinet’s endorsement”

The view of Mahuta’s speech from across the Tasman: we are selling out our neighbours – and the West – to pander to Beijing

Foreign Minister Nanaia Mahuta was  probably expecting  her speech this week  on New Zealand’s policy  towards  China  to be  widely  read, but not to have  produced  the  savage   reactions  it  did in some  quarters.

In our examination  of  the  speech, Point  of  Order  drew  attention  to how  Mahuta  had  delivered  a  poke  in the  eye  to  NZ’s  allies — and  sure  enough,  this  was  the feature   which got most  attention  across the  ditch.

At  home  the ACT  party was  fired  up by  praise  for the  speech  from  China.  It  found this approval,  coming from a communist dictatorship, as “deeply concerning”.

ACT’s Foreign Affairs spokesperson Brooke van Velden says it’s hard to imagine how Nanaia Mahuta could fail harder than being praised by a communist dictatorship and shunned by  democratic allies.

She  noted international media are commenting that NZ has “broken with its Five Eyes partners as it pursues a closer alliance with China” and that “Five Eyes becomes four”. Continue reading “The view of Mahuta’s speech from across the Tasman: we are selling out our neighbours – and the West – to pander to Beijing”

Away with the fairies? A poke in the eye for four NZ allies (and a likely review of the White House guest list) as China policy is refined

With consummate timing, Foreign Minister Nanaia Mahuta has stirred up another controversy days ahead of the first visit of her Australian counterpart, Marise Payne.  New Zealand, she says, doesn’t want to use Five Eyes as the first point of contact on a range of issues that existed outside of its remit.

The NZ Herald quoted her as explaining:

“That is a matter that we have raised with Five Eyes partners that we are uncomfortable with expanding the remit of Five Eyes.”

Our Five Eyes partners, Australia, the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom, are bound to be disappointed, if not dismayed.

They may well wonder if our government is away with the fairies.  The title of Mahuta’s speech was “He Taniwha He Tipua, He Tipua He Taniwha – The Dragon and the Taniwha”.

We were fascinated by that title.

In 2009, academic writer Manying Ip published a 360-page book exploring  how two very different marginalised groups in New Zealand society – Maori and Chinese – had interacted over the past 150 years.

She called it – would you believe? – The Dragon and the Taniwha. Continue reading “Away with the fairies? A poke in the eye for four NZ allies (and a likely review of the White House guest list) as China policy is refined”

Psst! The whispers among diplomats in the capital draw attention to shortcomings on NZ’s foreign-policy front

Does New Zealand have a contemporary foreign policy, let alone a defence policy? Some of our nearest and dearest are beginning to wonder.

Ambassadors in Wellington are among the world’s most discreet but word is beginning to trickle out.

What is the government up to?  Why does it move at glacial speed on foreign-policy issues when there is plenty of energy – evidently – for social policy issues and the improvement of Kiwis’ wellbeing?

Oh – and when will ministers travel again? A senior official left for an overseas visit last week and our contacts in Wellington tell us it was treated almost as though he was making the first flight to the moon.

Going away from NZ? What about the Covid-19 risks, how will quarantine be managed once home?  What of the risk that he might bring Covid back with him?

We are taking only a little levity here but there is a developing opinion that the Ardern government doesn’t have its act together. Continue reading “Psst! The whispers among diplomats in the capital draw attention to shortcomings on NZ’s foreign-policy front”

Beyond the bubble, the PM could score political points by restoring trans-Tasman harmony and rekindling the CER spirit

At  last  the trans-Tasman bubble  is  inflating. New Zealanders  are so excited that few  are bothering  to question  why it  took so long and government ministers  are pleased  that  the  media  furore is  concealing  its  failure  on several fronts, not  least in the vaccination  programme, which is proving to be one of the slowest  among  the  world’s  advanced  economies.

That  furore has  also  obscured  the  fact  that Australia opened up  to NZ  six  months ago.

Then  there  has been  the  wrestling  match in  Cabinet  over  just  when  the bubble should begin,  with Jacinda  Ardern applying  the handbrake  because of the  risk that  any  outbreak, particularly with some  of the newer variants, would put a blot on the  government’s pandemic performance.

ACT’s  David  Seymour  says

“Jacinda  Ardern couldn’t  treat us like lucky little prisoners any longer”. Continue reading “Beyond the bubble, the PM could score political points by restoring trans-Tasman harmony and rekindling the CER spirit”

NZ is absent from global group which questions WHO study – our health officials (we are told) were much too busy on Covid duty

The US and 14 other governments earlier this week issued a statement raising concerns about the recent World Health Organisation (WHO) study into the origins of the Covid-19 pandemic.  This was an interesting group: the US, Australia, Canada, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Israel, Japan, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway, the Republic of Korea, Slovenia, and the United Kingdom.

New Zealand?  Er, no.

Apparently, we didn’t have the time to read even the executive summary which had been with officials, along with the main report, in the Ministry of Health for some time.

We are told by Beehive insiders that the ministry, which we all know is singly focused on defeating Covid, hadn’t the chance to study the document.

The report is mildly critical of China, stating that the review team hadn’t had full access to background documents and records. Continue reading “NZ is absent from global group which questions WHO study – our health officials (we are told) were much too busy on Covid duty”

Thinking about the threat from Beijing and bringing Cabinet on side may be the explanation, if Jacinda seems distracted

If PM Jacinda Ardern looks more distracted and concerned these days she has good reason.  Housing, child poverty, economic recovery and Covid 19 might be sufficient, but there’s a foreign policy challenge looming: China.

Until very recently, New Zealand’s friends and allies, principally Australia and the US but also Singapore, Japan and South Korea, had reason to believe this country would continue its fence-sitting role with Beijing despite ominous developments in the People’s Republic.

The NZ business community, notably companies with extensive China links such as Fonterra, have hoped this Switzerland-type attitude might continue: you trade with both the good and the bad and you don’t make judgments. You let foreign governments run their own domestic affairs.

This is precisely the line from NZ that China and Russia gladly accept.  Never mind the internal repression, the quashing of democracy, the territorial land and seas grabs – let’s keep business rolling.

Times have changed and now NZ is on the cusp.  China is front and centre for the Cabinet.

Continue reading “Thinking about the threat from Beijing and bringing Cabinet on side may be the explanation, if Jacinda seems distracted”

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.