Espiner on our confused foreign policy


Unfortunately for the PM the narrative has been blown off course by the timebomb Peters placed in the coalition agreement – his wish for a free trade deal with Russia.

It was France and Britain, two of the big stops on Ardern’s trip, who joined the US in missile strikes against the Russian-backed Syrian regime, in retaliation for gas attacks.

Against a back drop of Russian-Western conflict not seen since the Cold War, uncomfortable questions follow Ardern around Europe.

Why, just weeks ago, was her country still clinging to the notion it could pursue a trade deal with Russia? Why did it take so long to drop the idea and why was it there in the first place?

Everyone assumes because a donor wanted it.

The demand to re-start the deal didn’t come from a free trade champion. Peters has largely opposed FTAs, including with South Korea and China.

This is why it is so interesting. It clearly isn’t belief in trade.

Why did Peters cast doubt on Russia’s role in bringing down MH17 and meddling in the US elections? Why did the government insist there were no Russian spies here and buck the trend of its allies, who expelled Russian diplomats?

The questions continue after the missile strikes on Syria. While Australia’s Malcolm Turnbull and Canada’s Justin Trudeau support the strikes, New Zealand “accepts why” they occurred.

Almost everytime the issue involves Russia, NZ is on the wrong side of it, or has to be poked and prodded into being on the right side.

What is it that Winston Peters wants to achieve in ?

Among the first of his stated aims was improving the relationship with Australia. Given the fallout over New Zealand pressing its case to take refugees from Manus Island that looks a difficult box to tick.

Yep Aussie is one of many countries peeved at this Government.

And what of China? Why has the Prime Minister not planned a visit to our second biggest trading partner at a time when we are supposed to be upgrading the China FTA?

Will it be the job of Winston Peters to take the relationship forward?

Doubtful as he campaigned against the China FTA.

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