A Pacific sojourn for the PM should be relaxing, compared with other burning issues on NZ’s foreign policy agenda

Thank heavens for the Pacific!  PM Jacinda Ardern is off again, radiating good cheer and best wishes on her colleagues to the north.

She is headed for Tuvalu for the 50th Pacific Islands Forum, where climate change is expected to dominate discussions.

But this makes a change from her otherwise tedious round of foreign engagements.

Check: a wonderful ‘phone call with Boris Johnson, Britain’s most recent prime minister, promising priority for an NZ-UK free trade agreement.

Problem: US National Security Adviser John Bolton had just left the room promising Boris the UK would be “first off the rank” in a cracking US-UK free trade agreement, managed perhaps sector by sector (don’t mind World Trade Organisation strictures on such processes). Continue reading “A Pacific sojourn for the PM should be relaxing, compared with other burning issues on NZ’s foreign policy agenda”

Mass shootings in US could trigger softening of Trump’s position on the Christchurch Call

Might the US now sign up to PM Jacinda Ardern’s call to  action after President  Donald Trump trenchantly denounced white supremacy in the wake of the mass shootings over the weekend in Texas and Ohio and cited the threat of “racist hate”?

The language was unequivocal:

In one voice our nation must condemn racism, bigotry and white supremacy. These sinister ideologies must be defeated,” he said at the White House.

Trump avoided endorsing the kind of broad gun control measures Democrats and gun-control activists have sought for years, instead calling for stronger action to address mental illness, violence in the media and violent video games and warned  of the perils of the internet and social media. Continue reading “Mass shootings in US could trigger softening of Trump’s position on the Christchurch Call”

Senior diplomat is named to represent NZ on International Whaling Commission

Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters  has named  senior diplomat Jan Henderson as NZ’s representative to the International Whaling Commission (IWC).

He  says   her experience will enable NZ to make a constructive contribution to this important body.  Henderson’s career with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade includes roles as High Commissioner based in Bridgetown, Barbados, as well as New Zealand’s High Commissioner based in New Delhi, India, and Ambassador based in Ankara, Turkey.   She also served as the Director of Environment Division where she was directly involved in International Whaling Commission issues.

Peters  says  NZ  strongly supports the IWC’s efforts to protect the ocean’s ecosystems.

The IWC is the intergovernmental body established under the International Convention to Regulate Whaling 1946. It is comprised of 89 members. It meets biennially and will next meet in Slovenia  in  2020. Continue reading “Senior diplomat is named to represent NZ on International Whaling Commission”

Foreign affairs: lots of alphabet soup but NZ gets an opportunity to sup with the heavyweights

Foreign minister Winston Peters is due home on Sunday after his latest foray into the world of international conferences.  This time he has been at the East Asia Summit and ASEAN Regional Forum Foreign Ministers meeting in Bangkok.

The significance of these meetings is that they attract foreign ministers from the EU and Russia through Asia to the US.  China was there – but not North Korea.

So, Peters gets to meet everyone from old buddies – Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo – to others including his counterparts from India, Timor-Leste, Vietnam and the European Union.

He co-chaired the ASEAN-NZ Ministerial Meeting and met Thailand’s Speaker and representatives of the Pheu Thai Party along with Thailand’s Deputy Prime Minister Anutin Charnvirakul and Foreign Minister Don Pramudwinai.

These gatherings with their alphabet-soup acronym titles are beginning to overhaul the annual UN gatherings in New York in significance because they have focused agendas and generally avoid the theatrics of the UN General Assembly.

Continue reading “Foreign affairs: lots of alphabet soup but NZ gets an opportunity to sup with the heavyweights”

The omens are promising for a US-NZ free trade agreement – but our PM must meet with Trump

Foreign Minister Winston Peters has done the hard yards, trade officials and diplomats have put in long hours – but NZ won’t achieve a free trade agreement with the US until PM Jacinda Ardern sees President Donald Trump.  That’s the way these things work.

New British PM Boris Johnson has already been on the phone to Trump and this week his new trade minister, Liz Truss, is heading to Washington DC, on much the same lines as Peters  has pursued.

Trump says he is keen to do a deal with the Brits – in part to thumb the US nose at Europe and bring the UK closer into the US orbit.

Our contacts in the US capital believe that, at official level, all the signs are right to launch a US-NZ FTA round. Both parties want to dance. Continue reading “The omens are promising for a US-NZ free trade agreement – but our PM must meet with Trump”

Ardern and Peters at odds on China’s expansion into the Pacific

PM Jacinda Ardern isn’t too fussed about China’s expansion in the Pacific.

This is hardly surprising since she has been in Samoa, a recipient of recent Chinese largesse.  But it does reinforce the view among NZ officials that she and Foreign Minister Winston Peters do not see eye to eye on the issue.  On Peters’ recent Washington DC visit he reiterated his concerns; these are shared by the US, which is planning to ramp up its activity in the region.

Ardern’s  sangfroid is not shared across the Tasman.  There, Australia and the US have expressed concern about Cambodia giving China exclusive rights to a Cambodian naval installation in the Gulf of Thailand in a hitherto undisclosed agreement. Continue reading “Ardern and Peters at odds on China’s expansion into the Pacific”

The British Navy will get there eventually – a condemnatory statement from NZ will take a bit longer

A British warship sped to help a UK-flagged oil tanker as it was seized by Iran last week – but the frigate was ten minutes too late, according to British media reports.

It took a bit longer for Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters to issue a statement condemning the seizure of two oil tankers in the Strait of Hormuz.

The statement, issued yesterday,  said:

“The seizure of commercial ships in this important transit lane is an inexcusable violation of international law, including the freedom of navigation.”

“Iran’s recent actions risk escalating a dangerous situation in the Gulf region.  We call on Iran to release the detained vessels and to engage with the international community in steps that help reduce tensions and the prospect of conflict,” said Mr Peters.

“Officials from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade have communicated New Zealand’s concerns to the Iranian Embassy in Wellington.” Continue reading “The British Navy will get there eventually – a condemnatory statement from NZ will take a bit longer”