Key on Burma and East Asia Summit

An interesting interview with John Key by Audrey Young. Some extracts:

Who first suggested you visit ?

My trusty foreign policy adviser [Ben King] and it worked because of location – it is close to Cambodia – and because we as a Government genuinely do believe that the Myanmar [Burma] Government is making progress. I don’t think we are naive to that progress. We understand it is not all perfect. It’s a long way from perfection, but fairly much every country is recognising them now and taking sanctions off them and trying to encourage them. The other EAS leaders have been very strong in their personal views to me. Certainly [President Susilo Bambang] Yudhoyono of Indonesia and [Prime Minister] Lee Hsien Loong of Singapore have been very much of the view that [Burmese President] Thein Sein is quite genuine in his progress. …

You said in a press briefing with President Thein Sein that New Zealanders were passionate about human rights.

I care about people’s human rights and, as a country, we have a very proud record indeed. But I’m also realistic about what we can do … we can raise those issues with leaders and we can talk about those issues, and we do that. Moral persuasion over a period of time makes a difference, but we shouldn’t be naive to think that just because we raise it in a meeting it will make all those problems go away. It won’t and it doesn’t.

Can you have real democracy in Burma and still keep the ban on motorbikes?

You could if the voters had the chance to vote out the Government that had such a policy. But apparently the genesis of the ban was that one of the generals’ sons was killed on one so they just got rid of them.

Amazing. The madness of absolute power.

Do you think he’ll visit New Zealand as President?

My foreign policy adviser keeps reminding me to ask. I am not so confident. I hope so and he will probably come to Australia and he has obviously been before. He might. He really wants to. But the problem is that there just aren’t areas of disagreement. There’s obviously the anti-nuclear issue but that has been put behind us long ago. In a world that is so intense for him with so little … I know he personally wants to.

Ironically, you’re more likely to get a US visit if there is a dispute to help smooth over!

Was it a good trip?

I reckon really good. The thing about EAS is we got everything we wanted. We got the President saying let’s try and get a deal by the end of 2013. We said to him ‘do you want us to say this in the press because [if] you do, it will be reported and we’ll be held to account on it?’ and he said yes, absolutely. That doesn’t mean we’ll get a deal. There’s a lot of scepticism from those that aren’t involved in . But he’s really serious about it. He thinks there aren’t that many levels for him to pull. It’s hard. They’ve got very low interest rates, they’re printing money, they’ve got big fiscal deficits. What things can he do to stimulate the economy? That’s one of them. It might fail but it won’t fail by want of trying.

My reading of this is the US needs the TPP more than NZ does. This doesn’t mean NZ should be unreasonable and try to screw the US over in negotiations. But it does mean that the NZ position on issues such as the proposed IP chapter shouldn’t be traded away.

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