The handshake was not a crusher. Unlike the potentially crushing power of the office of the man who shook Prime Minister Jacinda Arderns hand earlier today. As T.P.P. negotiations roll on we look at the major issues where New Zealand and America might dis/agree on.
It will be interesting to see how a decidedly left leaning New Zealand Government will get on with the most far right Government America has ever had. Mr Trump stands for a lot of the things that Ms Ardern and her Labour/New Zealand First/Green Party coalition balk at point blank, such as considering military spending as essential to the economy, cutting taxes, rolling back environmental laws and getting out of the Paris Climate Accord.
Mr Trump withdrew the United States from the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement within a couple of days of taking office in January. Despite most of the Labour Party grass roots and both of her support parties being totally against the T.P.P.A., Ms Ardern seems content to sign the agreement with a few more concessions. Mr Trump is on this rare occasion on the right side of history, whereas New Zealand and the other countries negotiating are going to end up on the wrong side.
Mr Trump’s administration might not yet be fully aware of New Zealand’s attempts to get some of the refugees from Manus Island. How much it impacts on a supposed deal being negotiated between Australia and the United States remains to be seen. It would not be the first time New Zealand has interceded on Australian refugee. We took some of the refugees from the M.V. Tampa, a freighter that the John Howard Government claimed was carrying terrorists and baby drowners in 2001. Those refugees turned out to be quite an asset, with all contributing substantially to their adopted New Zealand communities, setting up small businesses and becoming doctors and lawyers. Hopefully Mr Trump sees the Australian xenophobia for what it is and offers to take some instead of being sucked into Peter Duttons hate machine.
New Zealand is a small bit player in the North Korean issue, but a potentially valuable one. Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters has had prior experience negotiating with North Koreans and they invited him to visit Pyongyang, something that few other leaders have been offered. Aside from supporting the rule of international law at the United Nations and trying to get all sides to dial down the rhetoric, there is not realistically much else that New Zealand can help the United States with on this topic. No one will win if a war starts on this.
On the subject of climate change, New Zealand needs to stand firm, invest heavily in renewables and look at what sorts of environmentally responsible technologies it can develop, patent and export overseas. In short it needs to go in the opposite direction to the United States, which will find itself isolated by the international community in some respects – something New Zealand cannot afford to do.
Mr Trumps performance on the world stage, including his bellicose rhetoric against North Korea and Iran will also be watched closely. When he tweets the world takes notice just incase it is a foreign policy announcement. No doubt Ms Ardern and her press secretary keep close tabs on @realDonaldTrump and @POTUS.
America’s black and white view of the world ignores many, many shades of grey. New Zealanders seem to understand that they exist, but not why. Understanding those shades and where they fit into the spectrum – whether we agree with their purpose being another story altogether – is important, as is getting past the left-right political spectrum which is thoroughly redundant. Perhaps the most important thing though is not following this nonsense of “the enemy of my enemy is my friend”. Whilst this remains the thinking in Washington, we need to keep America at arms length, something I think Ms Ardern understands, but Mr Trump does not.