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Doin’ nothin’: Foreign policy

Written By: - Date published: 11:30 am, November 6th, 2010 - 21 comments
Categories: International - Tags:

Over at Dimpost, Danyl makes a pertinent observation: “Reiteration that we are ‘very good friends’. Zero development on trade or defense issues. I’m not even sure why she’s here.” There was nothing solid. The ‘Wellington Declaration is, in John Armstrong’s words, ‘featherlight‘ – a big name for less substance than a normal visit. More style over substance.

Sure, John Key gets along to all the meetings and shakes all the hands. But that shit doesn’t actually mean anything. Everyone’s nice and friendly at summits. What matters is if the politicians give the officials the go ahead to make actual, substantive agreements, and the politicians succeed in pushing them through to real world results. That’s the realm on Trade Minister Tim Groser and Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully, along with Key – and they’re failing completely.

All Groser seems to have accomplished is signing treaties that were hammered out under Labour. The negotiations he has been in charge of are largely stalled.

The talks with Korea are stalled. Key claimed to have solved the issue in July saying whatever this means “We really didn’t have a deal and now I think we’ve got some fresh legs on that debate now and we’ve got a plan to go forward,” and that an FTA was ‘in touching distance’. No progress to report.

The India FTA talks were chugging along through preliminary meetings but they will soon hit the wall of the agriculture issue, and no Indian politician will want to be seen as disadvantaging Indian subsistence farmers to help out Kiwi agri-business after our PM laughed when Paul Henry made racist comments about Indians.

Remember the Gulf Cooperation Council FTA? Negotiations were started under Labour and the signing was meant to take place earlier this year. A delegation of 70-odd business people led by Groser went to the Middle East and were to meet up with Key after Anzac Day for the signing. But then Key returned to New Zealand for the Anzac Day helicopter crash funerals and the Groser-led trip turned into an embarrassing farce (not helped by poor Groser having to stay and miss his mum’s funeral because Key wasn’t there). Since then, no new date for signing the FTA has been set and the whole thing is up in the air because Saudi Arabia wants us to resume the inhumane practice of live sheep exports.

How’s the post-Kyoto global climate change treaty coming? It’s going nowhere. New Zealand went from being a leader in the talks under Labour to being an obstructionist at Copenhagen when Groser, Key, and Nick Smith went.

The US FTA? Not happening, clearly. There’s some vague mentions of trade in the ‘Wellington Declaration’ but nothing about and FTA being a shared goal.

In fact, there’s nothing much of anything in the Wellington Declaration. When foreign ministers visit, there is usually some kind of treaty to sign – even if it’s just a visa scheme. But something substantial with real world impact. These agreements don’t get fancy names like the ‘Wellington Declaration’ but they actually mean something. The hoopla that the government has made over the Wellington Declaration, which doesn’t say anything of any substance or constitute an agreement by the countries to do anything specific at all, shows that it is a PR exercise for Key’s domestic audience.

Not getting a White House invite is pretty damn embarrassing (which is why Key’s office has been so pissed at us for mentioning it). So, the Wellington Declaration is a facesaver for him. Although it is far less significant in fact that the agreements that are the bread and butter of international relations, it sure does sound impressive. It’s the same old style over substance governing that we’ve come to know and despise.

In so far as the Wellington Declaration symbolises anything it symbolises that National is moving New Zealand back into the US sphere as the US tries to reassert itself in the Pacific. The audience for that symbolic gesture is, of course, China. Quite why National think it is a good idea to be aligning ourselves with the declining superpower in opposition to the rising one, rather than pursuing an independent policy, I don’t know.

21 comments on “Doin’ nothin’: Foreign policy ”

  1. lprent 1

    Sounds like the John Key government signature. Featherweight and without any substance on anything important. The government that brought you legislation to crush cars, and then hasn’t done so as far as I’m aware. Started to build a cycleway to cure unemployment – that didn’t employ virtually anyone and still hasn’t finished any that I’m aware of. Promised to start building a fast Internet to the home, and still hasn’t started on it.

    It is hardly surprising that nothing much has happened on foreign relations either. This government can’t locate their arse without considerable help.

  2. Zaphod Beeblebrox 2

    Interesting that we can sign a free-trade deal with the Communists but when we ask the Land of the Free for one its ‘we’re friends when we want to be, but rack off if you want to compete with our swing-state farmers’.

  3. Adrian 3

    It may be that Key’s unrelenting stalking of Obama has pissed the Yanks off and they are hanging him out to dry to teach him some humility. Good luck with that. There is the possibility that the next time he turns up unexpectedly on a beach or fun park a Secret Service guy is going to plug him. P.s Anybody seen English since the Hobble-it fiasco?

    • Marty G 3.1

      I think in the world of realpolitick, it doesn’t matter how cute you look in the pictures with the other leaders and how earnestly you shake hands – it comes down to domestic and international strategic considerations. Obama isn’t going to piss off his farmers any more with a NZ FTA, no US president is.

      • Lanthanide 3.1.1

        Probably the only thing that would drastically change the US’s trade relations with us is if we find oodles of oil.

        And if we did suddenly finds oodles of oil, we’d be a big target for invasion in a post-peak world, but also a big opportunity for the US (as most oil is in unfriendly countries with foreign culture). So we’d quickly snuggle up to US and Oz for military protection, I think.

        • Marty G 3.1.1.1

          you don’t need to invade a first world country to assume control of its resources. far easier and cheaper to use capital, and the threat of its flight, to win commercial control of what you want and to keep the government in line.

      • Colonial Viper 3.1.2

        But I thought we were promised extra Hershey bars for Key agreeing to keep our SAS in Afghanistan?

  4. ghostwhowalksnz 4

    The warming of the military relationship has come at the urging of the Aussies who are freaking out by the economic growth of China, and who fear a new Chinese hegemony. Not that this will likely happen , but it makes a good football for the military scare mongers.

    The normal communique issued after such meetings has been warmed up as a ‘declaration’
    Yet again Key and McCully pissing down their trouser legs

    • Colonial Viper 4.1

      China’s got money, Australia’s got rocks and gas, that’s going to define their relationship for the next 20 years.

      I really think that despite Oz being nervous about Indonesia (prob more realistically so than china), Australia can also see that Indonesia is a huge land, population and military buffer between themselves and China.

  5. Janice 5

    I think that we will be soon increasing our troop commitment (or leaving them in place) to Afghanistan. HRC’s visit reminded me of the flying visits of Johnson to Holyoake to get our troops in Vietnam increased. Who remembers “All the way with LBJ?

    Anti-spam: INFLUENCE

  6. Frank Macskasy 6

    As I’ve said before, this current government appears nothing more than a “caretaker government” waiting for the next election…

    By definition, caretaker governments create no new policy; conduct no new major undertakings on spending; and make no new binding committments.

    Now let’s look at the current government…

    ’nuff said.

    • Rharn 6.1

      Yes I think this Govt. is doing a lot of work behind the scenes for a ‘massive’ sell off (sell out) for what they believe will be their second term. I don’t think they will sell outright as what was done with the rail but flog off sections under the guise of consumer choice. Smith has floated this with ACC. I tend to think that this strategem is but a forerunner of what’s to come with Nat election policy. The Nats will be watching public opinion (ACC) on this.

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