The Right’s fairytale machine makes a lot of Key’s supposed ability to charm foreign leaders and open doors for Kiwi trade (despite the fact that none of the FTA talks he has begun show signs of conclusion). Well, the door slammed shut for meat exports to China at the end of April. National managed to keep that secret until after the budget. No wonder, it exposes the failure of Key’s international relations style.
Just going around, having your photo taken with famous people, wearing silly hats, and filling in the rest of your time with photo-ops like (seriously) going to a Chinese pizzeria that stocks Kiwi ice cream, isn’t actually diplomacy. O’Sullivan and co like to spin that Key has made deep personal relationships with foreign leaders. But think about it, if you were the leader of a major world power and Key visited you, would he leave any lasting impression? He might be nice, but so what, you’re responsible for the direction of a world power – nice don’t enter into it. Only strategic interests matter.
As we’ve now discovered, all the clowning around in the world doesn’t mean that Key and his ministers can get the Chinese government to listen to them when the shit hits the fan. Some level of the Chinese government (presumably a senior one) has decided that it is in its domestic interests to be seen to block Kiwi meat imports and protect its own farmers (the ministry name change is obviously a pretext). Or, perhaps, they’re just testing our response.
How long will the exclusion go on for? Who knows. China doesn’t need New Zealand’s meat imports and trying to explain the ministry name change to the officials hasn’t worked in the past three weeks.
Of course, in some ways, the blame goes back before Key. The neoliberal governments gave away our bargaining power in trade and, just as importantly, the culture of realism in trade relations. We lowered all our trade barriers unilaterally rather than as part of FTAs, so now we have nothing to put back up on China for violation of its FTA with us.
And we don’t even have the culture of eye for eye that you need to be respected on the world stage. Why don’t our officials suddenly create a paperwork catch-22 for Chinese agricultural imports that sees the $200m a year of such goods that they send here blocked at the border?
Don’t give me that ‘peashooter on a battlefield’ argument – when it comes to trade (and exchange rate) when can trade blows with much larger countries because our trade flows to and from each other are of comparable scale.
So, why aren’t we fighting fire with fire?
Because we don’t know how to play rough anymore. We can’t even imagine it. For China, and anyone else, that’s an invitation to work all over us whenever it suits them.
….. on the domestic front, Nathan Guy’s career is surely over. He hid this from the Kiwi public until after the Budget on purpose and now he has made the fatal mistake of failing to front to media. They smell blood.