Winston and Condi

I suspect commentators are going to simplify the upcoming meeting between Winston and Condi, so that hey can declare it either a failure or a triumph, when in fact it will be neither – however it will still potentially be important.

An initial meeting between two Foreign Ministers will be strongly choreographed in advance. Diplomats will have worked to ensure that there are no surprises. Condi will know exactly what NZ wants her to say, and NZ will know exactly what Condi will say. So any words that come out of it, will have nothing to do with the actual Foreign Ministers, but the skill of their staff in negotiating a win-win.

Now if it is all down to the staff, why even have foreign ministers and such meetings? Well it is because personal relationships can move mountains in this area. The aim of an initial meeting is to establish a good personal relationship with your counterpart so that you can work outside the square with them in future.

A good foreign (and trade) minister develops contacts, and once they have done so, they actually start adding value to international meetings. There is no magic formula to this – just time, intelligence and effort and the right personality.

So when the meeting occurs on Thursday, ignore simplistic analysis which says it was a failure because we are still banned from defence exercises or a success because we were upgraded from “very very very good friend” to “an excellent friend” or similiar superficialities.

The reality is no-one will know for months or years how sucessful it was. Once there is a second or third meeting. Once our Foreign Minister can ring the US Secretary of State directly, you know that all the work is paying off.

The other advice I have for pundits is to place more emphasis on the John McCain meeting. You see Peters has already meet McCain, and so at this second meeting will be able to start to forge a good personal relationship. And this could be incredibly beneficial in future to NZ, as every poll in the US shows that if John McCain is the Republican nominee for President, he would take almost every state.

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