New Zealand and Australia are entering in to trade negotiations with Europe.
For those with really long memories about how the U.K. treated New Zealand when the European Common Market was formed, you might not have much sympathy for the U.K.’s trade position as Europe prepares its severance.
All power to Prime Minister Ardern and Trade Minister Parker in their negotiations. Maybe our economy will do better out of it that the CPTPP projections.
But this is not just a rejection of the U.K. from Europe. It is also a rejection of the self-interested bullying and international damage that the U.S. is doing right across the world. Surely there are more ambitious values with which to engage with the world than just trade?
On Thursday 31 May at the University of Auckland, the Fabians are hosting Max Harris on the topic “Is it time for an independent foreign policy?” We need fresh thinking on diplomacy.
There’s no doubt the destabilising rise of Donald Trump’s United States government and the sheer regional power of Xi Jinping’s Chinese government has underscored the need to think afresh about our placing in the world.
It’s also very clear that our primary ally Australia now thinks and acts in its own interests compared to New Zealand citizens (although there are still specific entitlements) and its focus on the Pacific is strenghtening.
New Zealand’s 2018 budget finally starts to give us some sorely-needed capacity to do good diplomatic work in the Pacific.
So let’s think.
It’s evident that CPTPP and the Paris Climate Accords are vital – for all their faults – to retaining a strong multilateral diplomatic system. New Zealand remains totally reliant on forming and obeying world-spanning systems of laws. For that reason we have been from the beginning a fulsome supporter of the United Nations.
But New Zealand is not here to stand still. The webs of internationalist law are under high strain and in many areas fraying. True, the international order’s demise has been greatly exaggerated, and it’s proven to withstand shifts in global politics and economics so it’s strong enough to withstand a term of President Donald Trump.
But could we at least ask whether Five Eyes could be more inclusive?
Do we have to look at international relations – as we have – almost solely through the lens of trade and economic interests?
Can we fix our damaged domestic social frameworks while also seeking a fresh way of engaging with the world at the same time?
Does our future economy has more in common with Denmark and South Korea than it does Australia, or will our huge share of trade and social interdependence with Australia dictate our diplomatic focus there?
Is it worthwhile continuing to support the rules-based order of the United Nations when our troops are sent under resolution to countries such as Sudan, Afghanistan and Iraq where we will never have any national interest, ever? Or is that the kind of thinking that accelerates the decline of the U.N. completely?
Do we have any greater obligation to small and barely viable South Pacific states, or is the improved level of aid & development support about right?
What would be the costs of a really independent foreign policy, over the benefits of salving our conscience with greater national independence?
Maybe Max Harris has some answers. Maybe this is a government fresh enough to really make us think about our place and our agency in the world. Let’s expect more.