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”

“The Economist” puts spotlight on Ardern and Mahuta – now let’s watch them strut their stuff on the world stage

When a  Labour  government  in New Zealand is the  subject of a page of commentary  in the London-based The  Economist,  you  know  it is on a  roll.  And  the  Ardern    government   has  won  its  place  in  history  through its performance  in winning a  second term so decisively.

Not  only that, but the  Prime  Minister  herself has made her  own mark  on the  international  stage.

The  Economist   is  impressed  with  NZ  legalising  assisted dying, among other progressive steps,   and  is  impressed that  NZ’s  new  foreign minister,  Nanaia  Mahuta, sports a  Maori tattoo  known as  a moko kauae  on her lips  and chin.

It reports Mahuta  as being part  of the  most diverse cabinet in NZ’s history, appointed by Ardern,  following a thumping re-election for  the prime minister and the Labour  Party  she  leads. Ethnically,  almost half the  20  members   are  not white and include five Maori.  There  are eight women, two of whom are lesbians,  with young  children and the  first  openly gay  deputy  prime minister, Grant Robertson. Continue reading ““The Economist” puts spotlight on Ardern and Mahuta – now let’s watch them strut their stuff on the world stage”

The 15-nation RCEP – if that’s a secret agreement, someone should tell MFAT and the PM

The secret – or so-called secret – is out.  New Zealand has signed the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, then proclaimed the fact very publicly on the Beehive’s web-wide bulletin board.

The partnership encompasses Japan, China, South Korea, the 10 members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), Australia and New Zealand and creates “a free trade zone” which covers nearly a third of the world’s trade and economic output.

The word “free” is much more open to challenge than the claim about secrecy.

The piles of documents which set out the rules and regulations make nonsense of any notion this is a free trade zone for the signatories.  It’s an  easier trade zone for them, perhaps, but free? No.

The announcement of the public signing was one of just a few Beehive released in the past few days.  The others tell us – Continue reading “The 15-nation RCEP – if that’s a secret agreement, someone should tell MFAT and the PM”

Peters goes hard on China – now let’s see if NZ falls prey to Beijing’s intimidating pack of “wolf warriors”

Foreign Minister Winston Peters has been challenged over his robust approach to China.

First, he disclosed this week that Beijing’s foreign minister had tried to talk him out of NZ’s coronavirus lockdown.

Second, China’s diplomats in Wellington have become much more active.  The ambassador has already been called into MFAT over some of her remarks.

Now the NZ ambassador in Beijing has been called into the foreign ministry to “explain” why NZ supports admission of Taiwan as an observer to the World Health Assembly, run by the World Health Organisation.

NZ joins other countries in making its case for Taiwan to join the World Health Assembly, because of Taiwan’s record of handling the Covid-19 pandemic.  Neither Wellington nor other capitals challenge China’s “one China” policy.

Continue reading “Peters goes hard on China – now let’s see if NZ falls prey to Beijing’s intimidating pack of “wolf warriors””

Former NZ diplomat lands key post with major public relations company in US

High-flying former New Zealand diplomat Kirsty Graham has been appointed CEO Global Public Affairs for major US public relations company, Edelmans.  She takes up her duties at the end of February.

Dunedin-born Graham’s last MFAT post was deputy head of mission at the NZ Mission to the United Nations in New York. She also served in Washington DC and on the staff of former foreign minister Sir Don McKinnon.

From New York she was recruited by the US drug manufacturer Pfizer as senior vice president, corporate affairs for its Biopharmaceuticals Group and senior vice president Global Policy and International Affairs. She has also been vice president and Corporate Affairs lead for the company’s Essential Health group.

During her 10 years at Pfizer, Graham also held the title of vice president, Policy, External Affairs and Communications for the Primary Care Business unit as well as senior director, International Public Affairs for Asia-Pacific and Canada.

Graham will become a member of Edelmans’ Operating Committee, whose businesses operate in more than 125 countries and have a portfolio of more than 600 products generating about three-quarters of the company’s revenues.

Jones seems unstoppable (until he has emptied the PGF trough) – but what are the trade policy effects?

Shanes Jones liberal distributions of public money from the Provincial Growth Fund raise issues far beyond he prudence of government trying to pick winners and the potential for favouring political supporters.

There are trade policy implications, too.

Stuff writer Hamish Rutherford drew attention to this last December, when he examined Jones’ justification for why the Government had decided to lend almost $10 million to debt-laden Westland Milk Products.

Rutherford described the PGF as a $1 billion-a-year pot which NZ First won during coalition negotiations, to fill what he believes is a void. Continue reading “Jones seems unstoppable (until he has emptied the PGF trough) – but what are the trade policy effects?”

Cheering news for Jackie Blue – two women are among the prospects to head MFAT

Back in June,  a  post  in Point of Order quoted  a  range of  comments on a  reshuffle  of five  CEOs across the  public service by State Services  Commissioner  Peter  Hughes, who  said he wanted  to maintain  momentum in  key roles  and portfolios.

Among the comments, Equal Employment  Opportunities   Commissioner Dr Jackie Blue observed that the appointments were all male and criticised  the process  as  unfair  to  top  women in  the public  service.

So there will be keen interest, not least from that quarter, in the competition  for  the  top  job at the Ministry of  Foreign Affairs  &  Trade.  Its current CEO, Dr Brook Barrington, was one of the five involved in the June reshuffle and  is designated  to take over from Andrew  Kibblewhite  as  CEO  of the  Department of  the Prime Minister and Cabinet  from  February 1. Continue reading “Cheering news for Jackie Blue – two women are among the prospects to head MFAT”