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Wikileaks: NZ Foreign Policy Influenced by Dairy Trade?

Wikileaks Cable: NZ Foreign Policy Influenced by Dairy Trade?

Scoop Analysis

Click to read the allegation

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    Sending combat engineers to Iraq has enabled the giant New Zealand dairy exporter, Fonterra, to bid on lucrative Iraq-related contracts. New Zealand and U.S. troops in Afghanistan can participate in joint training and exercises that we have not otherwise allowed since New Zealand pulled out of ANZUS.

    1. After the horrific earthquake and tsunami in our region, there are far weightier U.S. foreign policy issues to manage in Asia than our relationship with New Zealand. But I am writing to request that U.S. Government agencies nevertheless conduct a quick review of our policies here, specifically with regards to New Zealand's anti-nuclear legislation. Conducting a review at this time could pay off, as I believe that this country's upcoming elections and its desire for a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with the United States make 2005 the best opportunity we have had in twenty years to convince New Zealand to reconsider its ban on nuclear-propelled vessels. At the very least, a review would develop a clear, comprehensive, and consistent message to set the stage for the next four years of the Administration as well as the new Government of New Zealand.

    A review should examine what we want from the relationship

    2. The nuclear ban has since its inception colored and limited our relationship with New Zealand. Over time, the United States has lifted some of its limits on bilateral military and intelligence cooperation we imposed after the ban was implemented in 198

    4. Our sense is that we have gone as far as we can go on our own. A review should determine, first and foremost, whether we should accept this status quo, and if so, whether we should broaden the relationship in other ways or make it clear to New Zealand that no deepening of ties are possible if the ban remains in place. And we must decide how best to convey our message.

    3. As of now, New Zealand officials effectively determine the issues for discussion in our bilateral relationship. An example is their aggressive ""forum shopping"" among USG agencies and Congress to press for a US-New Zealand FTA. At the same time, these officials argue that the nuclear issue is too sensitive even to discuss; that as the world's only superpower we should just get over it and stop ""bullying"" this small country. The past is the past, they say. The problem is, this is not about the past. Were other countries to adopt policies similar to New Zealand's and forbid our nuclear-powered ships to enter their ports, our efforts to create a more mobile military would be seriously impaired in Asia and beyond.

    4. Other red herring arguments that New Zealand officials use to keep the nuclear issue off the table can be similarly rebutted. For example, when I recently raised the ban with Foreign Minister Goff, he argued that the New Zealand government is unable to revisit its nuclear policy because the public ""will know we are only doing it because you asked us to."" This message makes painfully clear that the government does not consider a U.S. request in itself a reason for taking action, a stance that both springs from and feeds into deepening anti-Americanism here.

    5. A Foreign Ministry staffer later clarified that Mr. Goff really meant that the public would oppose any ""bullying"" from the United States on this issue. Those of us familiar with New Zealand know that in this context ""to bully"" means ""to publicly call for."" But if the government has already said publicly and privately it will not conduct any review of the ban, what alternative remains for us if not an overt call for them to reconsider?

    A review should examine the cost to us and others of New Zealand's Nuclear Ban and its declining willingness/ability to work with us

    6. Other countries in the region, notably Japan and Australia, have invested considerable political capital in their alliance with the United States and do not bar our nuclear-powered vessels despite formal anti-nuclear policies and significant domestic opposition. We should not reward our Kiwi friends at the cost of undercutting these important allies. They and others in the region even tiny Fiji also contribute far more to support our military capabilities around the world than does New Zealand.

    7. New Zealand's nuclear ban is concurrent with a 20-year failure to invest adequately in its military infrastructure. In just the latest example, both of the New Zealand Air Force C-130 aircraft that the government generously sent to help carry aid and personnel to tsunami victims broke down and were forced to undergo repairs before resuming operations. While New Zealand officials point proudly to the large numbers of peacekeeping and other operations in which their military participate, in most cases these deployments consist of one or two liaison officers. New Zealand benefits from our deterrence as much as do others in the region, yet has been unwilling to be anything approaching a true partner in the effort.

    8. In fact, the policies that have caused New Zealand to avoid pulling its weight internationally reflect ideological drift and lack of vision. The government articulates no clear definition of non-economic foreign policy interests other than a stated commitment to international organizations and peacekeeping, especially in the region. Even on these stated interests, New Zealand's practical contributions often fall short of the mark.

    A review should examine whether and how to raise our desire for a review of the nuclear ban

    9. I simply do not consider credible New Zealand officials' insistence that the public will not tolerate any discussion of a repeal of the ban. It is true that if you asked them today, a majority of New Zealanders probably would oppose a reversal of the nuclear policy. But I have found many senior citizens and younger Kiwis are actually open to the idea. To the extent others are not, it is largely because the Government has for its own ideological and political reasons been unwilling to discuss the issue honestly.

    10. After U.S. aircraft carriers were called into assistance after the recent tsunami, readers' letters to a major local newspaper highlighted the fact that because of the country's nuclear ban similar U.S. assistance would not be possible here in the wake of a natural disaster. These readers called for the ban to be lifted.

    11. In fact, there has been some preliminary debate about the ban here. Two previous reviews one commissioned by the National Party-led Government in 1992 and one by the National Party in early 1994 found there was no scientific basis on which to bar nuclear-powered vessels from New Zealand. As Dr. Andrew McEwan, the country's foremost nuclear scientist has pointed out in a recent book, New Zealand's ""nuclear free"" status is something of a fiction, given that there are about 2500 importations of nuclear reactor-produced material into New Zealand each year for x-rays, radiation treatments, and other purposes. (This does not include imports of things such as smoke detectors and certain watches that also contain radioactive materials.)

    12. Although the National Party has been the only party to examine seriously the possibility of ending the country's nuclear ban, in my view Labour is best placed to reverse the legislation. When in power in the '90s, National failed to take any action on the ban, preferring not to spend political capital to do so. As an opposition party, they can do even less. At this time, polls continue to show Labour as the likely victor in the general election that will probably be held this September. But the real reason we should urge the Labour government to reexamine the ban is that, as the original authors of the law, it is their party that would be most likely to win a public mandate to change it. Many of the original players who created the ban in all its inflexible glory are in power today, including Prime Minister Clark.


    13. The Prime Minister has shown that she can push through highly sensitive pieces of legislation. During my time in New Zealand, she has carried the day on laws as controversial as nationalization of the foreshore and seabed and a Civil Union Bill. She has called for a review of the country's constitution that could profoundly alter New Zealand's relationship to the UK. All these issues created heated debates and dominated the front pages, yet the government prevailed throughout. In short, where this Prime Minister has the will, she finds the way. In the case of the nuclear ban, she does not have the will because she does not think she needs to reopen this issue. I have begun to include in my speeches a request that New Zealand reconsider its policy, and I will continue to do so. But only a move by the government in this direction is likely to gain traction with the public.

    14. This election year may be the best time to convince New Zealand officials it is in their interest to reconsider the ban. Significantly, the Prime Minister and her team have not hesitated to raise the nuclear issue themselves, when stating publicly in implicit election promises to local businesses that an FTA with the United States is inevitable and that New Zealand's bans on nuclear arms and propulsion simply don't matter to us anymore. Indeed, PM Clark made this link at a recent speech to the pro-FTA U.S.-New Zealand Business Council. In this election year, the Prime Minister and her cabinet doubtless also see a U.S.-New Zealand FTA as a valuable means to counter criticism from both the right and left that the government is negotiating FTAs primarily with developing countries (such as Thailand) and those who abuse human rights (notably China).

    A review would enable us to consider what New Zealand does contribute, and how long even these small efforts can be sustained:

    5. As noted, I have stressed both in public and in private to New Zealanders that the nuclear ban does still matter to us. But frankly, messages from Washington to New Zealand officials are not always consistent with this long-term view. Policymakers have been understandably focused on soliciting New Zealand's cooperation in the war on terrorism, Iraq, World Trade Organization (WTO) talks, and other issues. While these are all obviously of the greatest importance, our failure to at the same time honestly tell New Zealand that the nuclear ban remains important to us has enabled New Zealand officials to claim that the issue is irrelevant in light of their other contributions. Meanwhile, they continue to lobby heavily for an FTA, including through the New Zealand Caucus that will be launched in the U.S. House of Representatives next month.

    16. In their approaches to the Embassy, to Administration officials, and the Congress, New Zealand Government officials stress that because of their country's efforts in areas of interest to us, New Zealand should be considered for a trade agreement. We are likely to soon hear that New Zealand is to extend its contribution to Operation Enduring Freedom, for example. We are of course grateful for all of New Zealand's contributions. But in my view New Zealand has benefited already from its actions. For example, New Zealand's own interest in WTO talks is obvious, given the country's dependence on exports and its low domestic trade barriers. Sending combat engineers to Iraq has enabled the giant New Zealand dairy exporter, Fonterra, to bid on lucrative Iraq-related contracts. New Zealand and U.S. troops in Afghanistan can participate in joint training and exercises that we have not otherwise allowed since New Zealand pulled out of ANZUS.

    17. I don't mean to imply that New Zealand has participated in these efforts solely for its own gain. But I believe that pushing them harder on the nuclear issue would have little impact on New Zealand's already limited willingness to engage with us around the globe. The cost to us if New Zealand were to pull out from these efforts would be another thing an interagency review would need to consider.

    A review should examine what we could offer in return for a credible review/lifting of New Zealand's nuclear ban:

    18. U.S. officials have strenuously avoided linking New Zealand's proposal for an FTA with our desire that the nuclear ban be ended. And indeed, the two are linked only in the sense that if our countries are truly friends, New Zealand should not expect it can press hard for an FTA and prevent us from even mentioning the nuclear ban. But in practical terms I have observed that our preferences for FTA partners are often made along a continuum of countries' economic and trade potential and our overall foreign policy interests. Certainly, if there were significant economic benefits I would strongly support a U.S.-New Zealand FTA, and have told this to the government here. An interagency review might consider whether it would make sense to conduct a feasibility study for an FTA if New Zealand removes its nuclear ban.

    19. We could also have a review to determine what changes in language in the New Zealand legislation would be enough to satisfy our concerns, as well as what possible changes in our ""neither confirm nor deny"" policy we might be willing to consider were the ban lifted. The interagency group might also consider allowing a non-nuclear naval ship visit to New Zealand, for example to support our operations in Antarctica, if the government announces a formal review of its nuclear policy. The Prime Minister has long encouraged such a visit, but we have rightfully resisted the invitation in light of the ban.

    20. We must be realistic. Even if New Zealand lifted its nuclear ban, it will not return any time soon to being the ally it once was. For example, political officials here fear a loss of popular support if New Zealand returned to ANZUS, and those at the senior levels worry about the budgetary and personnel requirements needed to rejoin the alliance. But New Zealand's agreement to take a second look at its nuclear ban would at least open the door to exploring where both sides want the relationship to go.


    21. These are just some of my ideas of what an interagency review might accomplish, and what we should be aiming to do here in New Zealand. I would very much like to come to Washington and discuss this idea further, ideally before the upcoming interagency review of the Administration's FTA negotiating agenda for the next four years. Please let me know if my staff and I can provide any more information to you in the meantime.

    22. New Zealand may be small, but with a little bit of time and teamwork, I think we can steer the bilateral relationship in a direction that is more positive to U.S interests. Now is the time to try. Swindells",22/02/2005


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