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.