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Cablegate: National's Foreign Policy Strategy: No

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PP RUEHCHI RUEHFK RUEHHM RUEHKSO RUEHNAG RUEHPB
DE RUEHWL #0757/01 2871849
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 141849Z OCT 07
FM AMEMBASSY WELLINGTON
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 4803
INFO RUEHZU/ASIAN PACIFIC ECONOMIC COOPERATION PRIORITY
RUEHBY/AMEMBASSY CANBERRA PRIORITY 4991
RUEHUL/AMEMBASSY SEOUL PRIORITY 0270
RUEHGP/AMEMBASSY SINGAPORE PRIORITY 0512
RUEHKO/AMEMBASSY TOKYO PRIORITY 0667
RUEKJCS/OSD WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RHHMUNA/CDR USPACOM HONOLULU HI PRIORITY

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 WELLINGTON 000757

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

STATE FOR EAP/ANP; OSD FOR JESSICA POWERS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL PGOV ETRD MARR NZ
SUBJECT: NATIONAL'S FOREIGN POLICY STRATEGY: NO
SURPRISES/FEW DIFFERENCES FROM LABOUR

1. (SBU) Summary. The opposition National Party released
its foreign policy discussion paper on October 2. National
announced that the policy disputes (read: nuclear issues) of
the last two decades are over, and that New Zealand needs a
bipartisan approach to foreign affairs; the only differences
between Labour and National will be in emphasis and tone.
National agrees to maintain New Zealand's non-nuclear
legislation and support a smaller, more niche-oriented
defense force. National will pursue free trade agreements,
particularly with the United States, Japan and Korea. Labour
confined its criticism to the omission of Iraq references in
the paper. Some media pundits have accused National of a
"Labour Lite" policy approach, but National officials claim
that both Labour and National have moved more closely to one
another in recent years. National officials offer that
foreign policy will not be a major factor in the 2008
elections, nor should it as both parties genuinely do share a
similar approach -- the real differences that will decide
next year's election hinge of domestic economic and social
issues. End Summary.

National's Foreign Policy Discussion Paper: Labour Lite?
--------------------------------------------- ------------

2. (U) The National Party on October 2 issued its foreign
policy discussion paper declaring that both major parties now
share a bipartisan approach to foreign affairs and that the
old policy divisions of the last twenty years are over. To
that end, National accepts New Zealand's non-nuclear
legislation and independent foreign policy path. National
will continue to support a smaller, more niche-focused
military while also allowing that New Zealand will
occasionally have a role in international security affairs.
Moreover, the party agreed that it would not support
reinstatement of the air strike wing of the New Zealand
Defense Forces, although the party does not rule out
increased financial support for the military. A detailed
defense white paper would be issued only in the event
National wins the 2008 elections. (Note: The lack of detail
on defense matters is likely due to National sensitivity to
accusations from Labour that the party underfunded the NZ
Defense Forces during the 1990s. End Note.)

3. (SBU) National's shadow spokesmen on foreign policy,
trade and defense were frank in conversations with the
Embassy that there is little appetite among the majority of
New Zealand voters for a reversal of New Zealand's "Clean,
Green, and Nuclear-free" international image, so skillfully
branded by Helen Clark and Labour. But National rejects
criticism that they have simply adopted Labour's foreign
policy and repackaged it in their recently released
discussion paper. National's Trade spokesman Tim Groser told
us that just as National has come to accept the anti-nuclear
legislation, they claim that the idea of a niche-based
approach to their armed forces derives from a National party
proposal, which Labour then adopted. National leader John
Key has explained that the differences between the two major
parties would be in emphasis and tone, but it is time for New
Zealand to have continuity in its foreign policy and a
bipartisan framework.

4. (SBU) The National paper notes that Australia will
remain New Zealand's key bilateral relationship, yet there
are several references to improving relations with the United
States and the need for a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with the
U.S. National proposes to move the existing US-NZ
Partnership Forum from a Track II discussion to more formal
Track I inter-governmental dialogue. National spokesmen tell
us that they are increasingly concerned over the large
numbers of New Zealanders departing each week to live and
work in Australia; a statistic they blame in part on the
US-Australia FTA. National will consider an FTA with the
United States as a key objective, and officials realize that
an FTA may be more doable in a multi-lateral formula as
opposed to a bilateral one.

5. (SBU) Another area where National intends to focus
attention is on assistance to the southern Pacific Islands.
Foreign policy spokesman Murray McCully has told us that
National wants to rethink New Zealand's development and
assistance programs to ensure that the financial
contributions have a positive impact on the economic

WELLINGTON 00000757 002 OF 002


sustainability of these countries. New Zealand, says
McCully, has been pouring money into the region with little
effect. Some Polynesian islands now have larger populations
living in New Zealand than on their home islands, as McCully
stressed at a recent lunch with the diplomatic corps.

Government Criticism Subdued
----------------------------

6. (SBU) Both Defense Minister Phil Goff and Foreign
Minister Winston Peters later issued statements critical of
National's paper. Although given the general agreement
between the two parties' platforms in the foreign affairs
arena, there was little to condemn. While Goff welcomed
National's acceptance of what he called key Labour policies,
he accused John Key of inconsistency in National's foreign
policy approach, saying that such flip flops are indicative
of an inexperienced and untrustworthy head of government.
Both Goff and Peters complained that National's paper omitted
any reference to the Iraq war and the role of the United
Nations in international affairs. John Key responded by
saying that references to the Iraq war had not been included
because the war was over -- a statement that Labour pounced
on to reiterate that Key's knowledge and judgment are
inadequate to manage defense policy let alone the affairs of
a country. Key tried to repair the damage but it was a clear
gaffe. Without defending Key, however, media analysts combed
their files and found that both Goff and Helen Clark had
issued statements welcoming UNSC resolutions in the aftermath
of the Saddam Hussein's fall and looking ahead to possible
GNZ contributions to Iraq reconstruction. The issue quickly
died, much to the relief of both parties.

Comment
-------

7. (SBU) National officials tell us that they wanted to put
the foreign policy paper out early to get this issue, which
hurt National badly in the last two elections, off the table.
They are especially wary of Labour reviving its earlier
mantra that National is too pro-American. While Clark's
government has moved far closer to the U.S. since the last
election, National still remembers Labour accusations that it
was being funded by "American bagmen" looking for National to
reverse the nuclear ban.

8. (SBU) National wants to be able to focus the upcoming
political debate on the issues that will most matter to the
2008 election outcome: domestic economic and social issues.
National maintains that the country's ability to generate
wealth and economic growth is being stymied by Labour,
doctors and skilled technocrats are leaving the country,
crime rates are up, and average families are seeing wages
stagnate while the cost of living rises. These are the
issues that National hopes to campaign (successfully) on, and
they would just as soon leave foreign policy matters aside.


KEEGAN

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