Controversial Kiwi businessman and former cop Ross Meurant has come out swinging at proposals by Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully to make it easier for New Zealand to ignore the United Nations when imposing trade sanctions on other countries.
Meurant, a polarising figure since his days as head of the notorious police “Red Squad” during the 1981 Springbok Tour, says McCully is seeking to “demonstrate his subservience to America’s blueprint of who should rule the world”, and if New Zealand gains the right to impose autonomous sanctions, it will be used to stifle trade with countries the US does not approve of, such as Syria.
McCully told the Sunday Star-Times his proposal, if approved by his cabinet colleagues, wouldn’t come to pass for at least a year and is not yet aimed at any particular country. He said if passed, his proposal would follow the lead of legislation passed in Australia last year (which has allowed them to impose autonomous sanctions against Iran, Myanmar, Fiji, North Korea and Zimbabwe).
I thought the proposal was fairly unremarkable. I suspect in the vast majority of cases we will only impose sanctions when the UN does, but there may be occasions when one wants to impose sanctions for sound reasons, without giving Russia and China a veto.
Meurant has a particular interest in Syria because since 2007 he has been involved in an abalone aquaculture project there. Six months ago he began setting up a business exporting phosphate from Syria to New Zealand for agricultural use, but the deteriorating political and security situation halted those plans.
While New Zealand currently has no restrictions on trade with Syria, Meurant says US restrictions on financial transactions with Syria make things complicated.
“I was thwarted by the US financial transactions blockade in making payment in US dollars to Syria for a sample container of phosphate.”
Oh I was wondering why Meurant was interested in this. He doesn’t want any sanctions against Syria, no matter how much they butcher their citizens, because of his business dealings. Typical.