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!