PM’s foreign affairs speech – fortifying what Mahuta said – resonates strongly with the Biden Administration

 It has taken nearly nine months but finally the government has spelled out its foreign policy, much to the relief of neighbours, allies and friends.  Speeches by both Foreign Minister Nanaia Mahuta and now Prime Minister Ardern have been followed closely in many capitals.

It’s no coincidence that President Joe Biden called PM Ardern this week. 

Ostensibly, the call preceded the PM’s Zoom meeting with APEC leaders.  The real reason seems to be that – at last – Washington DC has heard the policy, in person, from NZ ministers.

According to Washington and Wellington the call went well and was cordial. Continue reading “PM’s foreign affairs speech – fortifying what Mahuta said – resonates strongly with the Biden Administration”

Ardern says the right things about China but Foreign Affairs calls for more ministerial time and Defence needs a bigger budget

It has taken nearly eight months of her prime ministership but finally the outlines of Jacinda Ardern’s foreign policy are beginning to take shape.

The Queenstown summit was a great success. You couldn’t have slipped a finer tissue paper between Ardern and Aussie PM Scott Morrison on China, the Indo-Pacific and regional security.

And Five-Eyes?

Perhaps not the latter because it is still not clear how this government views this age-old arrangement which began as a post-World War II intelligence-sharing exchange.

Ardern and her part-time foreign minister Nanaia Mahuta started off by claiming it should be kept as an intelligence-only organisation. Continue reading “Ardern says the right things about China but Foreign Affairs calls for more ministerial time and Defence needs a bigger budget”

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”