Mahuta’s talks succeed in warming up high-level relationships in Beijing, and she opens way for visit by PM

In what has been one of her most important diplomatic mission, Foreign Minister Nanaia Mahuta  has opened the door  for  a visit  to Beijing by Prime Minister Chris Hipkins later this year.

Such a mission is regarded as vital with a new Prime Minister  Li Qiang settling into office. NZ’s last contact at prime ministerial level was in 2019 when what was a planned extended Jacinda Ardern mission had to be  cut short.

Since  then tensions have deepened between China (which is New Zealand’s largest market) and  the US (NZ’s  traditional defence partner).

So as Mahuta said on her return from a four-day visit to China, NZ’s relationship  with the leaders in Beijing “is very important and complex”.

It  requires “continual management” to make sure the two countries do not lose sight of each others’ views and perspectives.

Mahuta  had  talks with Foreign Minister Qin Gang  and the  message she received is  that the relationship is strong; China appreciates New Zealand’s “objective and friendly approach” and is keen to pursue opportunities to increase trade and economic co-operation.

Continue reading “Mahuta’s talks succeed in warming up high-level relationships in Beijing, and she opens way for visit by PM”

BRYCE EDWARDS’ Political Roundup:  NZ needs to distance itself from Australia’s anti-China nuclear submarines

* Bryce Edwards writes –

The New Zealand Government has been silent about Australia’s decision to commit up to $400bn acquiring nuclear submarines, even though this is a significant threat to peace and stability in the Asia Pacific. The deal was struck by the Albanese Labor Government as part of its Aukus pact with the US and UK to combat China.

The debate over the incredibly expensive and provocative nuclear-powered attack submarine fleet is raging in Australia, where former prime minister Paul Keating has labelled it the country’s worst decision in over a hundred years, especially because of the huge risks it poses to Australia and peace in the region.

Here in New Zealand, reaction and debate has been rather muted, despite the fact that the issue has huge consequences for this country and will inevitably lead to some very tough choices for the Government here.

Former NZ PMs join the debate to condemn Aukus

Debate on what Aukus means for New Zealand is finally getting underway this week, with some interesting contributions yesterday from two former prime ministers.

First, former National prime minister Jim Bolger participated in a forum about New Zealand’s foreign policy in Wellington in which he is reported by the Herald’s Audrey Young to have criticised the Australian submarine buy up as “beyond comprehension” because of the cost and the damage to peace in the Pacific region. Continue reading “BRYCE EDWARDS’ Political Roundup:  NZ needs to distance itself from Australia’s anti-China nuclear submarines”

Major issues on the table in Mahuta’s  talks in Beijing with China’s new Foreign Minister

Foreign Minister Nanaia Mahuta has left for Beijing for the first ministerial visit to China since 2019.

Mahuta is  to  meet China’s new foreign minister Qin Gang  where she  might have to call on all the  diplomatic skills  at  her  command.

Almost certainly she  will  face  questions  on what  role NZ  might  seek  to  play in the AUKUS defence pact involving Australia, the UK and the US.

President Joe Biden’s National Security Council co-ordinator for the Indo Pacific, Kurt Campbell, was  reported  this week as saying the US is looking for other working group partners now that the ‘critical components’ of the Indo-Pacific alliance have been launched. Continue reading “Major issues on the table in Mahuta’s  talks in Beijing with China’s new Foreign Minister”

Political Roundup: NZ’s foreign policy hardens under new leadership

* Geoffrey Miller writes –

 Times are changing in New Zealand foreign policy.

That seems to be the message from New Zealand’s new triumvirate of ministers with responsibility for foreign affairs and defence – Prime Minister Chris Hipkins, foreign minister Nanaia Mahuta and defence minister Andrew Little.

Jacinda Ardern’s departure as Prime Minister was always going to provide an opportunity to adjust New Zealand’s positioning. In particular, Hipkins’ decision to appoint Andrew Little as defence minister – replacing Peeni Henare – seems to have been a strategic move.

From the top, Hipkins has struck a more ideological tone in his most substantive comments on foreign policy to date, promising in a recent interview that New Zealand would maintain ‘steadfast support for Ukraine and its people as they continue to defend their homeland, and in doing so, the principles that we hold dear’.

The comments appeared notably more forceful than what amounted to the final word on Ukraine made by Jacinda Ardern while she was Prime Minister, made in mid-December when the New Zealand Parliament hosted a virtual address by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. Continue reading “Political Roundup: NZ’s foreign policy hardens under new leadership”

Two  views of how the war in the Ukraine is impacting on  a small  country in the Pacific  

Last  year,  when she  was  still Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern described the state of world affairs as “bloody messy”. Since then there have been few, if any, signs of improvement.  The   war in Ukraine delivered an economic  jolt to NZ, and  its effects  have  barely  dissipated. The war’s expansion would bring more pain for local business and consumers.

Without the military or economic scale to influence events directly, NZ relies on its voice and ability to persuade.

But by placing its faith in a rules-based order and United Nations processes, it also has to work with – and sometimes around – highly imperfect systems. In some areas of international law and policy, the machinery is failing. It’s unclear what the next best step might be. Continue reading “Two  views of how the war in the Ukraine is impacting on  a small  country in the Pacific  “

Political Roundup: New Zealand resets relationships with Australia and India

  • Geoffrey Miller writes – 

The first clues to New Zealand’s foreign policy after Jacinda Ardern are beginning to emerge.

Chris Hipkins, the new Prime Minister, decided to retain Nanaia Mahuta as his foreign minister – and both Hipkins and Mahuta took to the skies last week.

While Hipkins headed to Australia – the customary first destination for an incoming New Zealand Prime Minister – Mahuta flew to India on a surprise trip announced just a day prior to her departure.

In very different contexts, the pair managed to smooth over differences and pave the way for deeper partnerships – which may well involve greater military cooperation.

Mahuta is likely to play a bigger role in New Zealand’s foreign policy in the months to come, not least because Hipkins’ pledge to focus on ‘bread and butter’ economic issues is likely to keep him at home more often, especially as the October 14 election date draws closer. Continue reading “Political Roundup: New Zealand resets relationships with Australia and India”

Political lessons from Ukraine: Part 2

More direction on economic reform does not necessarily make things clearer on the political side.

We’ve just had the remarkable saga of Germany’s Chancellor Scholz doing his best to stop Ukraine getting a timely supply of German-built Leopard tanks. 

Even his Green party foreign minister was moved to remind him that “We are fighting a war against Russia” (diplomats have since been at some pains to explain that this does not mean that Germany is a formal party to the conflict).

Continue reading “Political lessons from Ukraine: Part 2”

Political Roundup: What Japan’s foreign policy shifts mean for New Zealand

  • Geoffrey Miller writes:

Japan is a country on the move.

Since World War II, Tokyo has largely been happy to outsource its security needs to Washington.

But this is now changing to a more equal partnership.

On Friday, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida called his country’s alliance with the United States ‘stronger than ever’.

For his part, US President Joe Biden, who hosted Kishida at the White House, said the United States was ‘fully, thoroughly, completely committed to the alliance’ with Japan.

The words from Kishida and Biden might seem like the usual diplomatic niceties, but behind the smiles from the two leaders was a quantum shift in Tokyo’s foreign policy positioning.

The war’s legacy and subsequent 1947 pacifist constitution help to explain why Japan has until now preferred its military to keep a low profile – a deal which has come at a bargain price. Continue reading “Political Roundup: What Japan’s foreign policy shifts mean for New Zealand”

 Prime Minister shines again on South-east Asian tour: her deputy not  so much at home

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has been snaring the headlines again on her mission in South-east Asia, celebrating the signing of an upgraded free trade agreement with ASEAN, condemning  the regime in Myanmar, and having a 10-minute conversation with US president Joe Biden.

Then there were the formal  meetings of the East Asia Summit in Cambodia. Now  she is seeking to lift trade with Vietnam. Still to come is the APEC forum meeting  in Cambodia, where possibly she will have  a  head-to-head with China’s President Xi Jinping.

She  does this so well that  some  of  her  countrymen  back  home  think she  should do it permanently.

But would those same countrymen accept deputy Prime Minister Grant Robertson in the  role of Prime Minister?

Not judging by the criticis  he has been attracting while  she has been away.As Sports Minister Robertson  could  share the glow of the Black Ferns’ triumph. As Finance Minister,the report card was less favourable.

In his Saturday column in the NZ Herald Steven Joyce was particularly severe, contending that the failure to let the central bank focus on stability risks its independence.  

The headline neatly encapsulated the Joyce criticism: “Robertson sticking an Orr in on RBNZ’s role”.

Joyce argues the reappointmentof Adrian Orr as governor of the Reserve Bank by Robertson for a second term of 5 years is “troubling”.

“Because of the bank’s importance and independence, the appointment of the governor is supposed to be a non-partisan decision that both sides of politics can live with. For whatever reason, it is clear that for the opposition parties and many independent commentators that is not currently the case.

“A sensible finance minister concerned for the independence of the institution would have either appointed a new governor or reappointed the current one for a shorter term.

“I should stress the criticism is directed at Robertson. It is Robertson who appointed Orr  and the buck stops with him on  Orr’s reappointment”.

Business journalist Bernard Hickey told Radio NZ’s Morning Report that as an independent, inflation-targeting central bank, RBNZ had missed its target and the public were right to want some accountability.

He said while it had responded to the pandemic in a similar way to other central banks around the world, the various things it had implemented in addition to its remit of setting the official cash rate (OCR) had caused a “perfect storm”.

Hickey points out:

“The Opposition is now saying Adrian Orr is not just a purely independent apolitical person, he did so many things in concert with Grant Robertson, so many joint memorandums of understanding, joint letters, that he crossed the line.”

Claire Trevett, political editor of the NZ Herald,noted in her Saturday column that the cost of living is rated the top  issue for voters,with the economy ranking second.

She says polling  shows on the  issue of which party is  considered best at managing the economy, almost twice as many people believe National is best  at 47% to Labour’s 24%.

Hardly a  feather in Robertson’s cap.  

Trevett reckons the bluntest lesson—or solution—for Labour came in the Reid Research poll,in which an overwhelming 85% of people supported a  tax-free income threshold

“Labour has not ruled out some tax cuts in its 2023 policy, and Ardern’s observation that a tax-free threshold did at least deliver the same to  those on low incomes the same as high may or may not be a hint about what it is looking at.

“It may be Labour’s only  hope”, says Trevett.

So, with an election budget still to come, Robertson back at his desk may be telling himself “Don’t count me out yet”