The Government is, to be blunt, lying when it says there is no need for the Foreign Affairs Minister to support the China Free Trade Agreement because trade agreements are somehow seperate from foreign policy.
A successful WTO round is our top trade priority. For it to succeed it must deliver on opening up agricultural trade. That is also in the interests of the developing world. But New Zealand has strong interests in negotiations on industrials and services too, and is looking for an outcome which delivers more openness across the board.
Meantime in our own region we are forging new trade links with APEC partner economies. Our first free trade agreement was with Australia over 24 years ago. Now we have FTAs with Singapore and Thailand, and a sub regional FTA with Chile, Singapore, and Brunei. We have completed fourteen rounds of FTA negotiations with China. Negotiations for an FTA are also going on between ASEAN and Australia and New Zealand.
Clark makes it absolutely clear trade policy is a subset of foreign policy. It is not a separate issue as Clark now tries to claim. It is like arguing overseas aid is not part of foreign policy.
To quote Helen Clark some more, in 2000 she said “As I have indicated, multilateral trade policy will continue to be a key focus of our foreign policy.”
And Dr Cullen in 2005 in Hansard said:
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: Yes, the Minister of Foreign Affairs accepts that seeking a free-trade deal with China is one of our highest foreign policy goals. …
Cullen points out that Goff is Trade Minister, not Peters. But he very clearly states that the China free-trade deal is “one of our highest foreign policy goals”.
Now Clark yesterday has tried to pretend it is not foreign policy, but trade policy only, as reported on TV3:
She did not believe that China or anyone else would find it strange for the foreign minister to attack trade policy.
But as Dr Cullen and herself and Goff have said on many occasions, it is a key foreign policy goal.
Now even worse, Peters has said he will criticise the deal when overseas as Foreign Minister. So the NZ Government will pay for their Foreign Minister to fly to other countries, and if asked about the China FTA, to say it is a bad deal which does not deliver enough to NZ. He will even say this to the Chinese Foreign Minister he claims.
Peters is also running advertisements today in newspapers attacking the China FTA. These ads were placed *before* his Caucus claimed to have decided their position yesterday. That tells you something.
So in summary, we have multiple statements from the Government that the China FTA has been and is one of their top foreign policy goals. And you have their Foreign Minister:
- Stating he will criticise the FTA when overseas as Foreign Minister if asked
- Attacking the deal while the PM is still in China
- Basically attacking his own colleagues and MFAT staff as having failed to get a good enough deal
- Claiming not to have made his mind up on the deal as he hadn’t seen details, yet drawing up advertisements in newspapers attacking the deal before it had even been signed!
- also heading a party campaigning against Asian immigration to NZ
Now it is possible Peters is trying to get sacked. Since he was re-elected to Parliament in 1984, he has never gone into an election backing the Government of the Day. He could have just announced his party will vote against but he will abstain in recognition of his responsibility to the Government he is Foreign Minister of.
But Clark’s credibility is one the line if she thinks it is not an issue that the NZ Foreign Affairs Minister is campaigning against the Government’s foreign policy, and allows him to do so.
What would we think if the US Secretary of State opposed the foreign and trade policy of the US Government? Or if any Foreign Minister anywhere in the world denounced and ran advertisements against their own Government’s foreign policy?
The “agree to disagree” clause in the agreements between Labour and NZ First can not and does not extend to the Foreign Minister able to campaign against and denounce overseas the foreign policy of the Government. It is the equivalent of the Finance Minister voting against tax cuts in the Budget (something Cullen probably wishes he could do) on the grounds tax is a matter for the Minister of Revenue, not the Minister of Finance.
Peters can not continue as Foreign Affairs Minister and be sent by the NZ taxpayer to countries around the world, where he will then criticise and attack the New Zealand Government foreign policy and achievements (by way of giving personal opinions on questions) rather than advocate on behalf of the Government he is the Foreign Minister for. That is a bauble too far.