Gordon Campbell | Parliament TV | Parliament Today | News Video | Crime | Employers | Housing | Immigration | Legal | Local Govt. | Maori | Welfare | Unions | Youth | Search

 

New Zealand - The Not-So-Plucky Little Country

Dunne Speaks: New Zealand - The Not-So-Plucky Little Country


New Zealand likes to portray itself as a small and nimble trading nation, with its own will when it comes to foreign policy, and doing deals in our nation's self-interest. According to the narrative, we are the plucky nation at the end of the world, determinedly making our way in an increasingly turbulent environment, always "punching above our weight" (as that simply ghastly phrase goes), never afraid to say what we mean, and prepared to stand up for it. It has a whiff of naive innocence and old-fashioned derring-do about it, which, although endearing, is simply not true.

No, our country has an unerring ability to put all our eggs in one basket, and then wonder why things do not turn out quite as expected. When Britain announced in 1959 that it wanted to join the then European Economic Community, we were the country that refused to believe it was happening, despite the nearly 15 years that were to pass before Britain eventually joined Europe in 1973. And when the penny slowly dropped and reality dawned, we spent the latter half of the 1960s and the early 1970s trying to negotiate special annual access deals for our agricultural exports. (The ultimate futility of this approach - the so-called New Zealand "Special Case" - was put into perspective for me once in Ireland when a particularly hostile Agriculture Minister told me that if I could convince the farmers in his largely rural constituency that they should sacrifice some of their prosperity to protect the interests of farmers 12,000 miles away, then he would back New Zealand's case in Brussels.)

After Britain joined the EEC, we tried to diversify markets and latched upon Iran as a likely trading partner, on a "dairy for oil" basis, only to have that blown out of the water by the 1973 and 1979 Oil Shocks, and the overthrow of our then new best friend, the Shah. Then we lurched on to "dairy for Ladas" deals with the old Soviet Union, only to have those deals crumble as the Soviet Union disintegrated.

Now, we have discovered China, concluding about ten years ago the first free trade China has made with any country. Bilateral relations between the two countries have become extremely close, to the worrying extent that other traditional partners are now showing concern that our ties to the world's largest nation are making us somewhat of a soft "underbelly".

The problem is that in pursuing a strong economic relationship with China, which is very good for our exporters and economic prosperity, we have inevitably sacrificed some of our soul. For example, China is one of the world's leading death-penalty states, yet allegedly fearless, human rights upholding New Zealand stays "relentlessly" silent on the frequency with which China executes its citizens, for paralysed fear of upsetting her.

And the appalling way we treat Taiwan - one of the strongest democracies in the region, and a stark contrast to China in this regard - is a long-standing national disgrace. It is absolutely proper for China to assert that Taiwan is not an independent country, but a renegade province and inalienable part of China, that they, by peaceful means, wish to recover. But that is an issue between China and Taiwan. Other countries are free to make up their own minds. It is not right for China to bully other nations to see the issue the way it does, and to expect those nations to comply, because China says so. Here is the rank hypocrisy: although Taiwan has formal diplomatic relations with only a small and diminishing group of countries, virtually every country, including plucky, brave independent New Zealand, maintains extensive backdoor quasi diplomatic relations with Taiwan, and in reality treats it as a de facto, separate country from China, but dares not say so.

Yet, in a rare brave move on the trade front, New Zealand did conclude a free trade agreement with Taiwan during the term of the previous government, but it now needs to back that up with some political bravery to give even a shred of substance to the romantic story we like to tell about ourselves.

The Chinese basket may be the biggest yet, but the eggs within it are just as breakable as those we have put in other baskets over the years. Sadly, we seem unwilling to learn any lessons from the last 50 years or so, and so appear pig-headedly destined to repeat all the same mistakes, and suffer the same mishaps, all over again.


ends

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
Parliament Headlines | Politics Headlines | Regional Headlines

West Coast PGF Announced: Kickstart For Ports, Rail, Town

The Provincial Growth Fund (PGF) is backing the West Coast with initial investment in projects that could lift the region’s productivity potential and future-proof its economy.
The PGF government will invest $625,000 in four feasibility studies for proposals that would boost tourism, increase transport resilience and generate employment opportunities.
More>>

 

Moving On: Flavell Leaves Māori Party TO Lead Te Wānanga o Aotearoa

The Māori Party congratulates Te Ururoa Flavell on his appointment as Kaiurungi - Chief Executive Officer of Te Wānanga o Aotearoa and thanks him for his many years of service, support and aroha for the Māori Party, its kaupapa, and for communities across Aotearoa. More>>

ALSO:

IPCA On 2016 Armed Offenders Response: 'Serious Failings' Put Officers At Risk

The Independent Police Conduct Authority has found that the tactical decision-making and control and command exercised by Police in response to shots fired near Kawerau on 9 March 2016 was highly flawed and placed Police officers at risk. More>>

ALSO:

Mental Health: National Offers Cross-Party Action

National is not prepared to let the Government park the mental health needs of Kiwis while it holds an inquiry, and has offered to work together to improve New Zealand’s mental health services both immediately and longer term, Mental Health spokesperson Matt Doocey says. More>>

ALSO:

Extradited To Deportation: 'Justice Not Served' In Australia Muddle

A number of New Zealanders who have been extradited to Australia to face charges - only to be sent back here or put in immigration detention centres - is concerning, Justice Minister Andrew Little says. More>>

ASMS: Syphilis Deaths Highlight Need For Proper Resourcing

“The heart-wrenching news that babies have died from syphilis underscores yet again the importance of properly funding and resourcing essential health services... This should not be happening in a quality first-world public health care system like New Zealand’s.” More>>

ALSO:

'Don't Mess This Up': Youth Message On Zero Carbon Act

The young New Zealanders credited with driving momentum for a Zero Carbon Act have formally handed over their submission on the proposed law to MPs from the Labour, Green and National parties. More>>

ALSO:

 
 
 
 
 

LATEST HEADLINES

  • PARLIAMENT
  • POLITICS
  • REGIONAL
 
 

Featured InfoPages