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Mapp Speech To National Party Region Conference


Wayne Mapp Speech To National Party Northern Region Conference Saturday May 10th 2003

New Zealand - The Emerging Foreign Policy Challenge

Our country faces the biggest foreign policy question for decades. What kind of relationship do we want with our most longstanding friends and allies?

The war in Iraq was the first time that a coalition of United States, United Kingdom and Australia did not include New Zealand.

Our country, once always considered to be a reliable ally, has been required to go down Helen Clark's path - and throw our lot in with France, Germany and Russia. These are not countries we normally see as our closest friends. But in the words of the Prime Minister ..."

"What everyone's looking at is whether there is going to be a Franco/German/Russia linkup with good links through to the Chinese against what we have which looks like a small Anglo/American group - it shifts the whole dynamic." It is plain to everyone that this is a foreign policy train wreck, that New Zealanders can no longer trust the Prime Minister to take a realistic view of New Zealand's interests.

She has not only managed to insult the United States, with her declared preference for an Al Gore government. She has also said the United States, Britain and Australia have now introduced the law of the jungle. As if that wasn't bad enough, she managed to insult China at the same time, suggesting that Chinese would embark on reckless militarism.

It takes a rare skill to simultaneously insult both the United States and China. Of course, we have seen some desperate back-pedalling with the offer of peacekeepers. While the offer is obviously sensible, we could have made the offer from a point of principle, rather than diplomatic fence mending.

Why has all of this happened? It is due to the Prime Minister's anti-American obsession, born over 30 years ago. When it looked to her untutored military eye that it was "bleedingly obvious" that the campaign was not going well, her latent anti-American sentiment broke through. She must have been envisaging another Vietnam, where her worldview would be vindicated. Her legendary discipline - where she had steadfastly not criticised the United States, Britain and Australia from November through January - broke down.

It has been said by some there was an implicit deal made in November 2002. No criticism by New Zealand, a big contribution to Operation Enduring Freedom and help in Iraqi reconstruction. Such an arrangement would have gone against her instincts, and at the first sign of difficulty she broke the deal. New Zealand has been the loser for her failure.

Why is an improved relationship with the United States so important? It is because it recognises our fundamental interests and where we fit in the family of nations. The history does matter. Relations between states are more than a cool analysis of self-interest. Shared values and common understandings play an enormous role in determining relationships.

New Zealand is an English speaking democratic nation - one of the six that has been continuously democratic for a hundred years. We have a shared history with the United States. We have the same values.

These nations have consistently acted for the good of humanity because they have the right values. They and we defeated the brutal dictatorships of Japan and Germany 60 years ago. The Cold War was won by their efforts. As a result, millions of people have been liberated.

Throughout Asia, including the People's Republic of China, the principles of free enterprise are predominant. This will inevitably lead to political freedom. The values of the enlightenment two centuries ago, originating in Britain and the United States, have brought prosperity and liberty throughout the world. These values reside at the very heart of what it is to be a New Zealander.

But for the last 15 years, we have been on the outer. It is worth remembering that the current Prime Minister drove through the anti-nuclear ships legislation that broke the relationship.

The ground was fertile then. France was testing nuclear weapons at Mururoa. They had bombed the Rainbow Warrior. Of course, rather ironically, France is now the Prime Minister's best friend. The United States' Navy routinely carried nuclear weapons on all its ships. The Cold War was at its height.

During the 1990s, National chose not to change the legislation, but where possible, we demonstrated our commitment, in the Gulf War of 1991, and in Bosnia, Kosovo, Somalia and the deployment of the SAS in 1998 to the Gulf. More recently Labour recognised the imperative of the relationship in Afghanistan.

In many respects the old alliance obligations have remained. We feel the need to contribute to our friends, in a way that Brazil does not. And this is a reflection of our history and our traditions.

So, why doesn't this work now? At the very least, the relationship continues to require that when we are asked to help on the big things - and Iraq assuredly was - then we should be prepared to say yes. But a mutually respectful relationship, allows questioning and dialogue. The United States went to the Security Council precisely because of the influence of Britain and Australia. It was France that ultimately proved to be the immovable obstacle, damaging the very institution it sought to protect. Relationships do involve mutual obligations. Just as we expect benefits, so do our partners, and the benefit we can provide is our support. Labour failed this test in Iraq, the most important military campaign since the Gulf War.

But the advantage of a full alliance relationship is greater dialogue, a vastly improved military relationship, and of course first place in the queue on free trade agreement. Each of these is important.

An alliance relationship gives New Zealand a direct voice with the people it most wants to influence. This would be regular, at a high level, not the rare fortuitous opportunities that currently occur. Prime Minister Howard has direct telephone access to the United States' President. He gets to visit the ranch. Access is influence. Alexander Downer gets to convey his views to Colin Powell and the door is being opened to Australian civil servants. New Zealand gets virtually none of this. There will be no standing ovations for Helen Clark at the World Series.

The advantages of a clear military relationship are obvious - better training, more access to equipment, better deals. It is worth hundreds of millions of dollars.

The trade advantages are immense. In the last few years the United States has become an increasingly important trade partner to New Zealand, but this is all at risk. If Australia gets ahead of New Zealand (and they will) investment will be diverted. US companies will buy from Australia - not just industrial products, but lamb, beef and dairy products. We don't just lose preferential access; we will also suffer trade diversion. US buyers will shift to Australia. We are not just talking about a $1 billion increase in trade; we are also talking about a loss of existing trade. This is a deal worth much more than $1 billion.

There is no chance of New Zealand getting a free trade deal while Helen Clark is Prime Minister.

New Zealand has to ask itself whether we are willing to make the changes necessary to become an ally, and not just a friend. It is a change that would need to stick, not just with a National government, but also with a future Labour government. That is why a change would need to have broad public support.

We know what is required to become an ally - change the nuclear propulsion legislation. It is now symbolic. No US surface ships carry nuclear weapons. No US surface ships, other than aircraft carriers, are nuclear powered. In reality, the only visits we would get would be from frigates and cruisers - pretty much like our own Anzac frigates, but a lot classier.

That is why National has established a Taskforce on the New Zealand/United States relationship - to answer the fundamental question - do we want to be a friend or an ally? The Taskforce is chaired by Wyatt Creech, and has both Caucus and Party members. It is hearing the evidence. But ultimately this is a question in which our national interest should be the motivating factor.

It is the biggest foreign policy question our country has faced for decades. The United States has emerged as the undisputed global power. That is why the nature of the relationship is the biggest foreign policy question facing our country.

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