From litigation to negotiation – Peters is back in pursuit of an FTA with the USA

After a trying week in court Foreign Minister Winston Peters will find some relief next week when he heads to Washington DC to take part in a security conference and continue his campaign for a free trade agreement with the US. The conference will focus on security issues in the Middle East and the containment of ISIS.

NZ has made considerable progress along the path to an FTA since Peters’ earlier visits and he will be aiming to consolidate the efforts by officials.  MFAT’s senior trade negotiator Vangelis Vitalis has been in the US capital this week.

Peters first raised the FTA almost a year ago and encouraging signs have continued to be shown by the US although its trade negotiators have been submerged in a high-level agenda ranging from China (in which a staged settlement will phase down tariffs, particularly those doing the most damage, for example on Chinese electronics imports) to the European Union and possibly the UK post-Brexit. Continue reading “From litigation to negotiation – Peters is back in pursuit of an FTA with the USA”

Impeachment hearings to be brought into a public arena but polls show Trump retains strong support

In Washington DC the lines have been drawn and the parties are gearing up for what looks to be a mighty contest as the Democrats prepare to try to impeach President Donald Trump. They won a testy contest in the House of Representatives on Thursday winning a motion to proceed by only 232 to 196.

Two Democratic congressmen voted against, understandably, as they are from Republican-leaning districts.

The Democrats are keen to have the impeachment process over before Christmas to prevent it spilling over into early next year when the selection process for a presidential candidate to challenge Trump.

This motion sets the procedures for public hearings and largely negates the Republicans’ argument that so far the hearings, which have produced some damning evidence on how the president coupled the supply of military aid to Ukraine (mainly Javelin anti-tank missiles) with a requirement that Ukraine president Volodymyr Zelensky announce investigations into  Biden, his son and other Democrats.

Should the actual motion to impeach win in the lower House, the question moves to the Senate. A trial heard before the Chief Justice could proceed. Continue reading “Impeachment hearings to be brought into a public arena but polls show Trump retains strong support”

Solomon Islands govt terminates “legally defective”deal with Chinese enterprise

The Solomon Islands government has terminated a strategic cooperation agreement signed by the Central Province government and China’s Sam Enterprise Group.  Attorney-General John Muria says it was “unlawful, unenforceable and must be terminated with immediate effect.

The five-year lease deal alarmed residents on Tulagi and officials in the SI government and caused concern in Wellington, Washington and Canberra. China’s Sam has not commented. Company executives met SI  Prime Minister Mannaseh Sogavare when he visited China this month, shortly after diplomatic relations opened between the two countries.

The agreement contained references to trade and minerals, including a possible oil and gas development as part of a “special economic zone”. However, its broad wording could have enabled China Sam to build strategic assets such as deep sea ports.

Muria said the agreement signed had significant legal “defects“, including an illegal clause which would exempt China Sam from having to obtain Foreign Investor status under Solomon Islands laws.

The deal was also not vetted by the attorney-general’s chambers, as required of all provincial and national level agreements, he said.

A reader reminds us Tulagi harbour is the resting place of an RNZN corvette HMNZS Moa which sank in April 1943 after being struck by Japanese dive bombers while refuelling from a US Navy tanker.  Five ratings were killed.

Summit in Samoa to foster trade cooperation between China and Pacific Island nations and bring Chinese businesses to the region

China continues its march into the Pacific with a China-Pacific Island Countries Economic Development and Cooperation Forum in Samoa this week.  Ahead of the forum, Beijing has signed seven new agreements with Samoa covering education, trade, e-commerce, investment, infrastructure and agriculture.

China’s Vice-Premier Hu Chunhua heads his delegation in Apia and the meeting comes just one month after Solomon Islands and Kiribati formalised diplomatic relations with Beijing.

At an export summit  ahead of  Hu’s arrival, Samoan Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele announced moves to make Samoa a regional hub for fish and agricultural exports. One provides for inspection, quarantine and sanitation requirements for wild-caught fish exports,  an area of particular interest for Samoa which hopes to increase the value of its exports to $160m a year, and the Government says it is on track to export about $50m worth this year. Continue reading “Summit in Samoa to foster trade cooperation between China and Pacific Island nations and bring Chinese businesses to the region”

Peters puts the spotlight on Pacific and partnership in policy address to international affairs institute

Since taking office in this Govt, Foreign Minister Winston Peters has applied heft to NZ’s role in the Pacific. Now, 18 months on, he reflects on what has been achieved.

Speaking to the NZ Institute of International Affairs, he said NZ is moving away from the donor-recipient dynamics of the past, and building more mature relationships with Pacific Island countries.

The message that NZ is a partner, and not just a donor, has resonated in the region and enabled frank conversations about shared policy priorities and challenges.

The government has lifted its leadership diplomacy effort, with an increase in high-level engagement, both in terms of travel into the region, and hosting Pacific leaders and ministers here.

Agencies are focused on greater coherence on Pacific issues across all parts of the Government, recognising the close connection between foreign and domestic policy in our Pacific engagement. Continue reading “Peters puts the spotlight on Pacific and partnership in policy address to international affairs institute”

Development deal in the Solomon Islands extends China’s drive into the South Pacific

Barely a month after the Solomon Islands switched diplomatic recognition from Taiwan to the People’s Republic of China, the country’s Central Province has signed an agreement with the Beijing-based Sam Group to develop Tulagi Island, across Ironbottom Sound from the capital Honiara.

Tulagi was the pre-war base of the British Solomon Islands Protectorate. During the war its dep-water harbour was used by the US Navy for ship repairs.

The Central Province agreement, signed September 22, would give Beijing-based Sam Group an exclusive five-year development lease for Tulagi Island and its surrounding islands. Central Province premier, Stanley Manetiva, confirmed he had signed the “strategic cooperation agreement” in Honiara with representatives of Sam Group, but said it was not legally binding and the company would have to comply with local laws and respect landowner rights on Tulagi. Continue reading “Development deal in the Solomon Islands extends China’s drive into the South Pacific”

Impeaching a president is one thing – getting rid of him is another

So, the impeachment process in the US has commenced against President Donald Trump.  In purely local interests – and forgiving the great constitutional issues involved –what does this mean for NZ and the prospects of a free trade agreement?.

Probably little.

Why? Because the great organs of the US state grind on. The president remains in the White House, all Cabinet officials remain in office, NZ’s trade guru Vangelis Vitalis is on his way.

At Monday’s meeting  with Trump in New York, PM Jacinda Adern reaffirmed NZ’s strong preference for an FTA and this was not denied by President Trump, nor by the Vice President, Mike Pence, a political pal of Foreign Minister Winston Peters in the presence of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. Continue reading “Impeaching a president is one thing – getting rid of him is another”