When it doesn’t hurt to be ig­nored

Kapi-Mana News - - OPINION -

De­spite the photo op­por­tu­ni­ties Prime Min­is­ter John Key en­joyed at the White House, lit­tle progress has yet been made with the Amer­i­cans on the im­por­tant mat­ters of de­fence and trade.

When it comes to whether our SAS forces will ac­tu­ally leave Afghanistan as planned next March, hints were dropped by Key that ‘‘no fi­nal de­ci­sions’’ had been made – thus leav­ing the door open for a fur­ther ex­ten­sion.

Later, Key in­voked the Nor­way mas­sacre to ar­gue that be­cause terrorism can ev­i­dently hap­pen any­where, this serves to jus­tify our mil­i­tary pres­ence in Afghanistan.

How a far right Chris­tian fun­da­men­tal­ist in Nor­way might con­ceiv­ably be de­terred by our forces fight­ing against ji­hadists in Kabul was left un­ex­plained.

Be­fore and af­ter Key’s visit, it has been hard to iden­tify any tan­gi­ble ben­e­fits New Zealand is earn­ing from its sup­port for the Amer­i­can mil­i­tary ef­fort in Afghanistan.

On the trade front, we are cer­tainly not win­ning any favours. Cur­rently, the multi-mem­ber Trans Pa­cific Part­ner­ship is the clos­est thing to a free trade deal with the United States that New Zealand is ever likely to achieve – and yet it, too, seems more of a pipedream than a re­al­ity.

At best, the na­tions in­volved will have agreed by year’s end merely to keep on talk­ing, rather than sign any ac­tual com­mit­ments.

What then did Key earn from his ab­bre­vi­ated half-hour meet­ing with Pres­i­dent Barack Obama? Noth­ing of sub­stance, it would seem.

Ap­par­ently, a small con­tin­gent of Amer­i­can Marines will ar­rive here next year to mark the 70th an­niver­sary of the Marines’ ar­rival in New Zealand dur­ing World War II.

How­ever, the Bos­ton Globe noted that in Key’s meet­ing with De­fence Sec­re­tary Leon Panetta, New Zealand had also in­vited the Coast Guard to send a ship to these cel­e­bra­tions.

Ob­vi­ously, any Amer­i­can ship visit would carry vast sym­bolic weight in New Zealand, and be widely read as a sign that the Anzus dis­pute had been re­solved, on our terms.

Per­haps that ex­plains why the Amer­i­cans were re­port­edly sur­prised when Key is­sued the Coast Guard ship in­vi­ta­tion, and why they have po­litely de­clined to re­spond, so far.

As al­ways, the Amer­i­cans have big­ger fish to fry. To date, Obama has been un­able to get even the trade deals he in­her­ited from the Ge­orge W Bush ad­min­is­tra­tion through Congress.

Even if Obama ever did ne­go­ti­ate a Trans Pa­cific Part­ner­ship deal in fu­ture, his chances of get­ting it rat­i­fied by Congress (in the face of Repub­li­can op­po­si­tion) seem al­most non-ex­is­tent. We should per­haps be count­ing our bless­ings on that score. Al­ready, sev­eral Amer­i­can farm states have called for the Trans Pa­cific Part­ner­ship to ex­clude trade in dairy pro­duce from such a deal, thus deny­ing New Zealand any greater mar­ket ac­cess for one of the key el­e­ments in our ex­port trade.

At the same time, New Zealand will be un­der pres­sure from the Amer­i­can ne­go­tia­tors and their phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal in­dus­try lob­by­ists to al­ter or scrap the way our Phar­mac agency pur­chases drugs cheaply for our health sys­tem.

Any fu­ture Trans Pa­cific Part­ner­ship ‘‘free trade’’ deal may well mean costlier drugs for sick New Zealan­ders.

In the cir­cum­stances, be­ing vir­tu­ally ig­nored and pa­tro­n­ised by the Amer­i­cans – Obama kept call­ing our PM ‘‘John Keys’’ – may well be bet­ter than loom­ing large on their pol­icy radar.

Gor­don Camp­bell is an ex­pe­ri­enced po­lit­i­cal jour­nal­ist and colum­nist who has writ­ten for The Lis­tener and Scoop.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from New Zealand

© PressReader. All rights reserved.