The Condi Rice visit

It would be churlish not to acknowledge that the visit to NZ of US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was a good thing, and primarily happened due to Winston’s personal efforts.

Peters said he wanted to focus on improving relations with the US, and he has suceeded in this to a reasonable degree. Some of it is fortunate timing (as China gets more aggressive in the Pacific we become more useful to Washington) but he has been able to pursue a closer relationship in a way a Labour Minister would not and could not have.

Rice even referred to NZ as an ally. Now that may not be a change of policy, but it still has some significance. As we fight with the US in Afghanistan it is ludicrous we can not officially train with them, and it is time for the US to drop the silly little ban which is againgst their own interests.

Less likely is significant movement on a free trade agreement. Rice has just six months left in office. Obama appears to be against free trade, and even if McCain wins the new Congress is looking to be highly protectionist.

Having the US use NZ, and specifically Winston, as a small non threatenign proxy for the West in dealing with North Korea was quite inspired and again Peters did well there.

So Winston was at his best charming Dr Rice this weekend. I am unsure if he will do so well on Tuesday trying to charm Sir Robert Jones!

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