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Armstrong on Do Nothing Key’s big adventure

Written By: - Date published: 12:37 pm, November 20th, 2010 - 28 comments
Categories: Economy, humour, john key, Media - Tags: ,

John Armstrong’s straight-faced piss-take of John Key’s holiday very important diplomatic mission to Japan last week is very very funny. Without a hint of irony, Armstrong reveals how Key achieved nothing, talked big only to be put in his place by the big boys, and filled in his diary that was devoid of important meetings with pissant PR.

Here are some samples:

Key tells the journalists that Japan’s joining of the TPP will have to be on New Zealand’s terms.

“It is as simple as that. We don’t want them being a sea anchor which weighs us down.” His ramping up of the rhetoric is very deliberate. It is all about keeping the TPP participants on the straight and narrow. It is a message he will repeat all week in public and private….

…New Zealand has mixed feelings about Japan joining the TPP. It obviously wants that country to lower its food tariffs. What worries New Zealand is that Barack Obama – desperate to reinvigorate the recession-hit American economy – has set a target of doubling exports in order to create jobs.

The concern is that the Americans will flex their negotiating muscle to get better access into Japan for their manufactured goods by offering Japan concessions in other sectors to entice it into the TPP, such as by allowing Japan even more time to phase out protection from food imports.

Surprise, surprise: the US is more interesting in bargaining for greater access for its manufactured goods in return for allowing Japan to keep its argicultural tarrifs than it is in simply giving free market access to New Zealand, a country with no tarrifs of its own to bargain with. New Zealand threw away all its bargaining chips in the 1980s, now we’re trying to join a poker game with nothing to put on the table.

10am: Japan Travel Bureau store, Roppongi, Tokyo

The brochures portraying everything New Zealand has to offer the Japanese tourist are on prominent display. A New Zealand flag has been found and unfurled.

The Prime Minister is wearing his other hat, as Minister of Tourism. The rumble of the subway trains beneath and above the store reduces Key’s patter to a mumble.

I wonder if the Minister for Overseas Holidays Tourism knew the results of the international tourism expenditure survey that was made public yesterday: 6.9% drop in real terms in the past year. I’m sure that hanging out in some dreadful travel agents for a few hours will be as successful as the national cycleway, which, as we all know, is teeming with big spending foreign travellers as promised.

[Japanese PM] Kan accepts an invitation to a meeting of TPP members on the coming Sunday, although he tries to downplay the significance of his presence by deeming it to be only in the guise of “host observer” , while prevailing upon the United States to ensure there are no television cameras in the vicinity to record him being there.

Each TPP economy – Apec members are “economies” not “countries” – is allowed a stills photographer into the meeting for a few seconds. But Key is unimpressed with the ban on television cameras and tries to get it reversed. Without luck. What must worry him is the collusion between the US and Japan over something relatively trivial.

That trivial thing sure did worry Key an awful lot. The lack of cameras was the biggest concern that Key voiced during the whole trip. And he was ignored because he doesn’t matter. This thing was about the US and Japan working out their trade relations, not some wee fella who can’t even get a White House invite getting the pics with Obama for the papers back home.

Rather than being there for the “silly shirt” photo and getting into the same shots as Obama, Key is now relishing the Prime Minister’s role in shaping foreign policy.

Which is why he was so concerned about the lack of cameras, eh John (wink wink, nudge, nudge). And, three days into the trip, Key has achieved so much shaping of foreign policy.

Much of the Apec dynamic is also about contact-building. By alphabetical chance, Key has got to know Mexico’s president Felipe Calderon well by being placed next to him at dinners. And, of course, Calderon has a lot to do with the big neighbour to Mexico’s north.

There is more than one route into the thinking of the White House for a Prime Minister willing to pick up the phone.

As if the President of Mexico has the spare time to give tips to the NZ PM on working with the US. Key might pick up the phone, but I doubt Calderon will answer. Anyway any fool can tell Key the White House’s thinking: we’ve lost control of the House to the Republicans, on both sides the bulk of congressmen are anti-free trade. We already have open access to New Zealand’s puny market. An FTA of any significance would mean opening our dairy to comeptition with theirs, and we can’t afford that political fight in return for no gain.

The Russian media must find it mind-boggling. One minute it’s all superpower politics, the next they are being dragged along to witness their president sign up to talks on a free trade agreement with a country to which it exported only $12 million-worth of products in 2008.

Well, the Russians actually exported $440,000 to us in the year to June but point taken. Russia is our 35th largest trading partner taking just 0.5% of our exports, it’s population is shrinking, and it’s becoming more self-sufficient in what we export to it (butter). The FTA is valued at just $27 million – rounding error stuff. Yet this is Key’s big accomplishment on the international scene after two years (well, that and the Letterman appearence).

Finally, after five days, we get to the reason why Key is mooching around Japan:

Blink and you might have missed it. Just 20 minutes has been allotted for the much-anticipated meeting of TPP members….

Key has secured reference in the communique seeking the “objective” of a “high-standard” TPP.

Holding the line may be judged a good week’s work, though not very tangible. At least Bronagh Key got to take home a free kimono from one of Japan’s foremost designers, courtesy of the Apec organisers.

Hey, an import we didn’t have to pay for, I guess that improves our current account deficit – score!

28 comments on “Armstrong on Do Nothing Key’s big adventure ”

  1. ianmac 1

    Tut tut. To poke fun at John Key’s need for maximum tele exposure is cruel. An alcoholic needs alcohol. Someone told John that his smile and wave is Nationals’ biggest weapon to fight unemployment and economic downturns so that weapon has become an addiction. And John takes his photogenic role seriously you have to admit.

    And surely NZ with a population of over 4million must be a power to be reckoned with and we need John to capitalise on that advantage. Yes? You tell Kan what he can and can’t do John. Good on yer mate.

    • Jum 1.1

      One change to Key; he’s taken his rose-coloured contacts off and we’re seeing the shark underneath.

  2. Adders 2

    Also, on Monday, Gordon Campbell exposed Key’s TPP fantasies for what they are.


    • Marty G 2.1

      goes to show that if you want decent coverage of international events you have to go to one of the big global outlets. Kiwi outlets inevitably have to rely on the government for information and context because they don’t have the expertise themselves… so you just get government line in the new reports – although the criticism that seems to underlie the surface praise from Armstrong and Small is interesting.

    • ianmac 2.2

      Which lead me on to the photos from John Key’s visit to Mana yesterday. About a hundred photos but the scarcity of people must be a worry given that the photos were National selected? Where were the crowds flocking?

  3. Mr Key gained a few laughs, casually mentioning that he’d been “talking to Obama at the weekend” and his problem was that the United States had become more productive and efficient but one in 10 Americans were unemployed,


    hmmm…so was this at Yokohama and how did that happen ?

    ‘Ayo Barack, fancy meeting you here’ Key says as he follows Obama into the mens toilet.

    ‘Can i get that for you’, he follows up, reaching over to unzip the presidents fly.

    ‘So umm yeah, you’re countrys a bit fucked eh ?… zero per cent interest rates, massive debt and a huge deficit. Sucks to be you huh ?

    …and getting your ass handed back to you in shreds at the midterms…i thought you were the silverbacked alpha, not the 800-pound gorilla who is extremely unwell and is going down big time…whats up with that ?

    but anyway, how’s about hooking us up a free trade deal. Go on, i’ll sort you out a bottle of wine and throw a couple steaks on the barbie when you come over to NZ to sign it ?…if not i’ll piss on your shoe !!!

    …hahaha, nah seriously i will eh’

    always good for a laugh is our PM

  4. Tanz 4

    He’s so hedonistic in his ‘need to be seen’attitude. He didn’t want to be PM to better the country it seems, insead, he’s used it as a platform for celebrity, fame and glamour. You sure you wouldn’t rather have had Brash, boirng perhaps, but not a chic debutante.

    • Marty G 4.1

      thank goodness those aren’t our only choices.

    • Lazy Susan 4.2

      Bit like asking whether I’d prefer to be mugged by someone wearing Armani or Farmers. I’d prefer not be mugged.

    • Draco T Bastard 4.3

      hmmmm, a tough choice between a psychopath that thinks smiling at the cameras is what being PM is all about or a psychopath that thinks taking all the countries wealth and giving it to the already wealthy few is how to “grow” the economy…

      Oh, wait, what was the choice again?

  5. Jum 5

    Very impressive Key; on your own you’ve managed to bring back the cringe factor NZ and New Zealanders were just beginning to shed.

  6. ghostwhowalksnz 6

    Well the royal wedding next year is one event Key wont have shop around to get an invite.

    Trouble is he will pump up the ‘meeting world leaders’ angle – and end up being seated next to Namibia

    • Frank Macskasy 6.1

      “Well the royal wedding next year is one event Key wont have shop around to get an invite.”

      Oh please, god no. *cringes even more*

      • ianmac 6.1.1

        On the Pike River Mine TV news update last night John Key said, ” ….. and I received a personal message from Prince William saying that his sympathies…….” What is it with this PM?

        • Marty G

          yeah I thought that was a shocker. and he managed to mangle his syntax at the same time apparently William said his “hearts and thoughts” were with the men.

  7. BLiP 7

    Much of the Apec dynamic is also about contact-building. By alphabetical chance, Key has got to know Mexico’s president Felipe Calderon well by being placed next to him at dinners. And, of course, Calderon has a lot to do with the big neighbour to Mexico’s north.

    There is more than one route into the thinking of the White House for a Prime Minister willing to pick up the phone.

    Heh! This is really funny. Our very own John Key goes one better on the downward intellectual escalator of Sarah Palin. At least she could see the country of concern from where she lived – John Key, on the other hand, got to sit next to the person who can see the country of concern. Nice one John Armstrong.

  8. Frank Macskasy 8

    The not-so-funny thing?

    Key could have been a pretty good PM, had he followed through on policies to put a break on unemployment and kick-start the economy. Instead, we’ve got the pathetic cycleway; tax-breaks for the affluent; a rise in GST which hits low-income New Zealanders the worst; cuts to Early Childhood Education; bowing to foreign movie companies; and generally doing… bugger all else.

    Key could have easily squashed the last two tax cuts. Everyone in the country (except head-in-the-ground minimalist-government types) knew that the 2008 global economic crisis and the resulting recession was about as bad as it gets. Nearly everyone would have forgiven Key had he simply fronted up and said,

    “Sorry, folks. No can do with tax cuts. We need to re-prioritise and get this economy kick-started.”

    Then he should have initiated a programme of infra-structure building. He should have done what we’re doing now for earthquake-ravaged Christchurch.

    Putting tax-dollars to work by employing people to work sounds a pretty fine idea to me.

    Leaving people on the dole to twiddle their thumbs whilst the most highly-paid in this country get hundreds of dollars extra per week in tax-cuts is incompetent management and irresponsible.

    Will Key do anything about this?

    Will he leave it till election-year to pump-prime the economy with infra-structure building, to reduce unemployment?

    If he does, then he will have done nothing for two years; left people on the dole for no good reason; then acted only to make his Party look good.

    The sooner this caretaker government is consigned to history, the better for us all.

    Anti spam word: provide

  9. ak 9

    Our current Celebrity Idol has a simple recipe for success: “It’s not rocket surgery – actually, all we did was promise more that 50 a week to get in, then relax and borrow from their grandies to pay off our sponsors, who then keep us looking good. Sometimes coplicated is simple, and this is one of those.”

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