Next week Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern will meet United States President Donald Trump at the White House.
Although Ms Ardern and Mr Trump have met on the sidelines at various functions, they have not formally talked in each others country until now. That will all change next week.
I expect the meeting will be polite, but they will diverge sharply on just about everything. The most left wing Prime Minister New Zealand has had over a generation – I would argue even Prime Minister Helen Clark was more conservative in some respects than Ms Ardern – meeting possibly the most right-wing President the United States has ever had, is going to make for fascinating politics. I expect that a host of topics ranging from Iran to climate change, the need to act on hatred following the Christchurch mosque shootings will arise. I am not expecting to hear about any concessions.
One may therefore ask, why go?
Why NOT go? The President of the United States might be in many peoples estimates the single biggest idiot on the planet, but he is at the end of the day the President of the United States. As such he commands respect.
And the issues on New Zealand’s plate we can absolutely not afford to stop pushing, in particular reducing the ability of future atrocity planners from livestreaming what they are doing to social media. Getting the co-operation of the United States on these is essential as it is where Google, Facebook, Twitter and other social media giants have their headquarters.
Will she get to meet any of the senior Democrats with whom she is going to have to potentially work with should one of them find themselves with 270 or more electoral college seats on the first Wednesday of November next year (U.S. elections are always held on a Tuesday)? It might be more useful than they or she thinks.
Perhaps topics such as China, trade and A.P.E.C. which New Zealand is hosting in 2021, will be of more use. China in particular is raising serious and justifiable concerns in both countries. In the case of New Zealand it is about the degree to which a perceived take over is true – some argue China is literally buying New Zealand out and then installing the apparatus of the Communist Party. In the United States it will about the effects of the trade wars sparked by China and the United States heaping tariffs on each others products. There are also concerns over whether Huawei telecommunications company is a spy front for Beijing. The U.S. thinks it is.
Minister of Foreign Affairs Winston Peters and other high officials would have already done some ground work on these that might be more likely to get a positive reaction from the White House. Other issues such as how to get Google, Facebook and Twitter to better identify potentially harmful content and what might happen to it may also come to their attention.
I look forward to seeing what happens. Ms Ardern will no doubt be pleased to get away from Labours sex abuse scandal which continues to burn and is no closer to being under control than the day it broke.