Posts Tagged ‘Foreign Relations’

The Bush Legacy

January 13, 2009

I read an interesting article today in the International Herald Tribune on how an improved relationship between the US and India will be one of the legacies of the Bush Administration.  I agree with the article but it gave me cause to reflect on the global situation and on other Bush successes.


Closest to home one has to acknowledge that it has been the Bush Administration that has allowed a transformation in relations with New Zealand to occur.  The “nuclear issue” has not gone away completely but both sides have found ways around it.  For all previous administrations since Reagan it has been impossible to navigate around it.  The Clark Administration here deserves praise as well for allowing this to happen.  Also, National needs some praise for its making the relationship with the US a non-partisan issue soon after the 2005 election.  The challenge now is for the Obama Administration to continue the momentum established by Bush and his team.  I have my own ideas on how New Zealand might make things easier for President Obama but won’t be sharing these at this stage.


China/Taiwan relations are another success story under Bush.  Things were potentially very rocky at the start of the Bush Presidency but sensible policy has been pursued throughout the final five years or so of the Administration and tension has eased considerably in the past year.  Again the challenge for Obama is to maintain this thaw.  Again I have some ideas here which for the moment I will not share.  The first test for policy will be over the World Health Organisation.  It is in everyone’s interests to have Taiwan integrated fully into the work of the WHO (we saw with SARS the threat Taiwan’s non-involvement posed for all jurisdictions including China).  Some creativity may be required.  The US should be working hard to encourage this creativity from both Taiwan and China.  Contacts through the APEC and WTO processes should also be encouraged to expand.


Bush’s Korea policy again started with a wobble but I think has come out well.  Some of my China and Japan watcher friends in the US say that too much emphasis has been given to Korea compared to the other two big relationships in the region.  This may well be the case (certainly towards the end of the Bush era it is hard to find real China experts in positions of real influence in State/Defense  etc) but the emphasis on the DPRK has been warranted.  If the Dear Leader (or whatever he is called) is indeed seriously unwell (if not dead) then Korea policy could be an early test for Obama.


I have already covered India.


The other big relationship that has transformed under Bush has been the relationship with France.  Maybe this has had more to do with Sarko than Bush, but relations with France are now radically different than they have been for many years.  Again the Bush Administration has had to change course to allow this to happen (remember those freedom fries???).


I will write something fuller soon on the Middle East.  I am less hard on Bush here than many critics.  Indeed I don’t see radical change ahead under Obama.  What I do hope for is a more active New Zealand engagement in this area, and a closer working relationship between New Zealand and the Obama Administration on Israel/Palenstine issues than we saw under the Clark and Bush Administrations. 


Good Statement On Gaza

January 7, 2009

As I suspected, once back at work it hasn’t taken long for Minister McCully to say the right things on Gaza.

New Zealand And Israel

January 3, 2009

I tend to agree with Fran O’Sullivan’s article today in the NZ Herald on the Government’s restraint in comment on what Israel is up to in Gaza.  I am all for a more balanced approach in relations between New Zealand and Israel (which went too far the other way under Labour), but I do feel that we do need to be a bit more forthright in our comment on the current situation.  I put the current restraint in comment more down to the Government being new and the machinery of Government still being away on holiday, but once things start getting back up and running next week I hope some stronger statements are made.

I also hope that Isreal ceases hostilities immediately.  Aside from a humanitarian, and international law concern, I am keen to see some work done on building a better relationship between New Zealand and Israel.  In particular I want New Zealand to learn from Isreal’s venture capital culture and its business incubation programmes.  I also want more trade and investment with Israel.  Unfortunately the current offensive against Gaza will make this more difficult.

The Tragedy That Is Fiji

December 24, 2008

Of all the economies in the South Pacific Fiji has the most potential and the most chance of achieving sustainable strong economic growth.  It has an excellent tourism potential plus manufacturing and agriculture.  It is relatively close to the bigger markets of Australia and New Zealand.  Its military has a great reputation which allows the armed forces to do well from UN peace keeping contracts.  And it is the main campus for the University of the South Pacific.

Yet inspite off aall this potential Fiji is heading fast to being the next failed state in the region, and globally, another Zimbabwe.

I have known our soon to be expelled acting High Commissioner Caroline McDonald well since 1980 when we first worked together in the Pacific Projects Section of the Development Division of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.  Few people had greater affinity with the people of the Pacific than did Caroline then, and I am sure that today she is feeling for the average Fijian, because she knows that it is the average Fijian who is going to suffer from the foolery of the military goon who is currently calling the shots in Fiji.  There is no way that Caroline would have done anything to warrant the treatment that has been dished out to her in recent days.

As I have commented before, I know the new Government here wanted a fresh start with Fiji and Murray McCully was prepared to go that extra mile to try and restore order to our relations with this important neighbour to the North.  I certainly supported this initiative and felt it unfair that Fiji  seemed to be being treated in a more heavy handed way than other countries in the region that have transgressed important democratic principles – Thailand is one example.

Thanks to this idiot Commodore Bainimarama we can kiss any chance of an improvement in relations in the short term.  Longer term we need to solve this problem.  New Zealand would be failing this region and the world if we allow Fiji to become a failed state.

So what do we do?  Trade sanctions?  No, these will simply harm the average Fijian, plus they would be WTO illegal.  We need to be more sophisticated.  I suggest the following as a start:

  • Maintain the existing sanctions on travel (they are clearly impacting on Commodore Bainimarama and those supporting him);
  • Throw the diplomatic book at Fiji – unless we have a reversion to a full democracy fast Fiji should be tossed out of the Commonwealth.  I presonally wouldn’t mind making an example of them in the Pacific Forum context also.  All aid should also be cut;
  • Lets seek international agreement to full military sanctions against Fiji.  No more military sales will be allowed and the UN should cut all peace keeping contracts with Fiji or Fijians;
  • Australia and New Zealand need to tell China and Taiwan to behave in our back yard and not do anything to undermine our politicaal sanctions – who do China and Taiwan want more as a freind?  Australia/New Zealand or Fiji?
  • Lets do everything we can to undermine Commodore Bainimarama at home.  Lets beam anti-Commodore Bainimarama radio and TV into Fiji 24 hours a day.  Lets saturate the web with pro-democracy messages targetted at the Fiji people.  And lets offer some exciting carrots should Fiji be willing to overthrow this clown Commodore Bainimarama and restore full democracy.

We could go further but the above is a good start.

Every New Zealander can do their thing also to help.  A good place to start would be to holiday elsewhere next winter.  Giving your full support to Murray McCully and John Key on the diplomatic front would be pretty helpful also.

Herald Editorial Spot On

December 17, 2008

Today’s Editorial in the NZ Herald makes points similar to those I made yesterday over the stupidity of what Fiji is reportedly threatening

One of the first messages sent to John Key after National’s election came from Fiji’s military usurper, Commodore Frank Bainimarama. In it the commodore reportedly referred to Helen Clark with sentiments less than diplomatic. Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd is said to have received a similar greeting a year ago when he defeated John Howard. Clearly Fiji’s self-appointed ruler is aware of the possibilities presented by a change of Government.

But he has a strange idea of how to take an opportunity. Any prospect that New Zealand’s new Government might make an early move to review the sanctions imposed on Fiji’s regime has probably disappeared with the threat to expel this country’s Acting High Commissioner in Suva over a visa denial.

Emperor Of Japan’s Birthday Celebration

December 3, 2008

Last night’s function at the Duxton reinforced the importance of the Japan relationship for New Zealand.  I counted almost half the Cabinet in the room, a very impressive turn out.  And two Ministers outside Cabinet were there also.  Darren Hughes, Steve Chadwick and Stuart Nash were there from the Opposition.  It was good that a Cabinet Minister (Groser) gave the speech and toast from the New Zealand side ending the practice of recent years where the speech has been given by the Director of Protocol (an MFAT officer).  The Japanese Ambassador mentioned the work of the International Business Forum in taking the relationship forward and the agreement between the two Government’s to study the FTA possibility.  This was also encouraging.  Groser gave a good speech and toast, speaking from the heart, as opposed to reading a prepared speech.  This went down well with the audience.  Well done to the Japanese Embassy and Ambassador for hosting another excellent function.