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”

Middle East and China are on US Defence Secretary’s agenda during visit Down Under

The new US Secretary of Defence, Mark Esper, is in New Zealand today and tomorrow for top-level talks with NZ Defence Minister Ron Mark and other ministers.  He is on his way home from the annual AUSMIN talks in Australia between foreign and defence ministers.

The visit reinforces the strong NZ-US defence relations which have flourished since Foreign Minister Winston Peters’ visit to Washington DC last year.

The US has asked Australia to consider joining a US-led naval force in the Straits of Hormuz to protect tanker traffic from Iranian interception.  It is naturally drawing on as much support as it can garner from traditional allies, including Australia.

Australian Defence Minister Linda Reynolds confirmed she and Foreign Minister Marise Payne had canvassed the US request at Sunday’s meeting but that “no decision had been made”.

Continue reading “Middle East and China are on US Defence Secretary’s agenda during visit Down Under”

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”

Peters has command of a trough, too – and he is calling for applicants to dip in

Lest you have forgotten what a horse trough looks like – here’s a reminder.

Shane Jones’ mate and colleague (his party leader, too) is Winston Peters.

Besides being Deputy PM and Minister of Foreign Affairs, Peters happens to be Minister of Racing.

In that capacity he has announced that 2019/20 applications for funding to improve racecourse safety are now open.

The Racing Safety Development Fund has two funding rounds per year. The first funding round of 2019/20 is open for applications as of 31 July 2019.

“While the Government is in the process of implementing reforms to revitalise the racing industry, health and safety will always be of the upmost importance” says Mr Peters.

All racing clubs and racing code bodies are being advised to consider the condition and standard of their facilities and equipment, and assess whether they are safe for animals, staff and customers.

“The fund not only benefits clubs and racing bodies across the country, but helps to address the health and safety of the racing animals, riders, spectators, officials, and others involved in racing” says Mr Peters.

The Racing Safety Development Fund covers up to half the costs of a project with between $7,500 – $50,000 funding being available for each project.

Past projects have included improvements for safety running rails, irrigation and drainage, lighting upgrades and grandstand repair.

Applications must be submitted by 25 September 2019.

Further information is available here.  

 

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”

Visual news: Minister prepares a sign-language statement to trumpet announcement about help for the hearing-impaired

The Ardern government – focused on promoting wellbeing and diversity – is obviously keen to ensure the beneficiaries of its spending decisions are not left oblivious to what it is doing for them.

Associate Education Minister Tracey Martin yesterday made one of the spending announcements that inevitably trigger the Point of Order Trough Monitor (which is programmed to alert us to government spending decisions but not to make value judgements about the worthiness of  those decisions).

In this case, the announcement related to increased funding of $9.9 million over the next four years to benefit children and young people who are deaf or hard of hearing.

To ensure the target audience was informed of what has been decided, the press statement emerged from the Minister’s office in two forms.
Continue reading “Visual news: Minister prepares a sign-language statement to trumpet announcement about help for the hearing-impaired”

No, Peters won’t come home with an FTA – but high-ranking Americans have been listening to him

Foreign Minister Winston Peters is heading home after his Washington DC visit where, according to officials, virtually every door was opened for him. The visit also confirms how much the US is listening to NZ’s independent voice in Pacific and Asian affairs.  The prospects for a free trade agreement are improving.

Vice-President Mike Pence went out of his way to see Peters again.  Peters also held discussions with President Trump’s chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, at the ministerial conference to advance religious freedom,  and with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, National Security Adviser John Bolton, Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt and two influential senators, Cory Gardner who chairs a sub-committee on East Asia and Pacific and the international cyber security policy, and Ed Markey on the foreign relations committee.

A few years back  NZ’s foreign minister would have been lucky to meet numbers three of four in each agency.

This is a busy time in Washington DC ahead of the August summer break but senior figures in the Trump administration cleared their desks to see Peters.  His meeting with Pence had not been signalled before Peters  left  NZ  on Monday but Peters  has succeeded in  building a  close  relationship with him,  first  at  the APEC summit in Papua  New Guinea  in  November and subsequently  on a visit to  Washington, where Peters  pressed  the case  for a  FTA.  They met for a  third time  on this visit.

All the  high-ranking   members of  the Trump  camp  were keen to hear his perspectives on Asia-Pacific developments at a time when when the region is morphing into a bi-polar system – the US versus China.

Washington has noticed how NZ has recast its previous infatuation with Beijing. This shift was driven by Peters’ speech last November, when he called for a more muscular approach to the Pacific.

Encouraged by Peters, MFAT has drilled down into the essence of the Trump administration’s foreign and trade policy (setting to one side the daily twittering eructations).

According to some long-term Washington watchers, this suggests NZ is better placed than at any time to have its voice heard in the US capital.

PM Jacinda Adern’s sharp criticism of the president following his “go home” taunts certainly registered in the US capital.  But it was offset by the praise which Christchurch mosque attack survivor Farid Ahmed heaped on the president’s leadership during a surprise visit to the Oval Office.

In  a  speech Peters gave  at  the  Centre  of  Strategic and  International Studies, he  underlined   how  the   US’ limited engagement in  trade  agreements  in the Indo-Pacific  “is of  real concern to  NZ”.

He outlined the  multilateral  trade agreements of the  10 Asean  nations and the  CPTPP pact.

The  upshot is that those countries which have engaged in this manner, they are  able to move goods, services and investments across each other’s  borders  with lower  costs and much more business certainty.

“And the converse is also true — for those   countries not  participating, they are by  definition becoming less  competitive   relative to  those countries  who are progressively  removing  barriers  to  trade and  economic  activity”.

He  said  most countries in Asia  have been actively  negotiating trade deals with China, a country which has recorded  staggering  economic growth.   This is one obvious  symbol of the greater trade engagement  across  Asia, whereas the US  in the past 20 years has negotiated only  three FTAs  which  represented  just  12%  of GDP.

While  US exports worldwide  have grown by 5.3% on average since  1990, the share of  US exports to NZ has fallen from  18%  to  10%.