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Cablegate: New Zealand, Asean and the Arf Disaster Relief

O 280206Z NOV 08
FM AMEMBASSY WELLINGTON
TO SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 5558
INFO ASEAN REGIONAL FORUM COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
CDR USPACOM HONOLULU HI PRIORITY
JOINT STAFF WASHDC PRIORITY
SECDEF WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY

C O N F I D E N T I A L WELLINGTON 000400


STATE FOR EAP/ANP AND EAP/RSP; STATE PLEASE PASS TO JEFF
HENSEL AT USAID/OFDA; PACOM FOR STEVE MELLINGER

E.O. 12958: DECL: 11/26/2018
TAGS: EAID MOPS PREL MARR NZ
SUBJECT: NEW ZEALAND, ASEAN AND THE ARF DISASTER RELIEF
EXERCISE

REF: A. A) STATE 123211
B. B) STATE 122937

Classified By: Pol/Econ Counselor Margaret McKean; Reason 1.4 (b) and (d)

(C) 1. Summary. New Zealand is interested in the ARF
Disaster Relief Exercise but will not make a final decision
on participation until it receives a formal invitation from
the Thai government. The GNZ believes that financial issues
will dominate the upcoming ASEAN meetings in Thailand, where
New Zealand, Australia, and ASEAN are scheduled to sign a
Free Trade Agreement (FTA) on December 17. An MFAT official
suggested a possible meeting of the ASEAN Ambassadors from
the U.S., New Zealand, Japan, and Australia in Chiang Mai may
be useful to discuss issues of overlapping interest and those
outlined in reftel A. End summary.

ARF Disaster Relief Exercise
----------------------------

2. (C) Pol/Econ Counselor met on November 25 with Tim
McIvor of the Asia Division to discuss the ARF disaster
relief exercise in the Philippines as well as the upcoming
ASEAN summits. On the ARF exercise, McIvor noted that the
GNZ had heard about the exercise in Singapore when it was
discussed by USG and Philippine government officials. Both
MFAT and MOD officials agree that the exercise is a good
idea, and sent forward a policy recommendation within Defense
House for consideration. The policy recommendation,
according to McIvor, included a suggestion for a C-130
deployment and an engineering team. McIvor stressed that the
exercise is attractive to New Zealand because it represents
the first time ARF would deploy assets rather than engage in
tabletop exercises. However, senior NZDF officials are
reluctant to sign off on the recommendation until the Thai
government issues a formal invitation. (Comment: Before
approaching MFAT, PE Counselor contacted the Philippine
Embassy regarding their role to date in informing the GNZ of
the exercise; the Philippine Embassy was unaware of the
exercise. End Comment.) McIvor urged the USG to keep the
GNZ informed as planning progresses; McIvor indicated that
USG specific requests to GNZ officials may help to focus the
incoming government's attention on the exercise and ensure a
positive response. McIvor said that New Zealand agrees that
the ARF should shift towards being a more action-oriented
organization. Disaster relief is discussed within a variety
of East Asian fora, including APEC and EAS, he said. In
McIvor's opinion, however, ARF is ideally suited to play that
role.

ASEAN Summits
-------------

3. (C) On ASEAN, McIvor said that the financial crisis --
which dominated the recent APEC meetings -- would likely
continue as the main theme in the upcoming ASEAN summits.
Although the Thai government had earlier selected disaster
management for consideration, the financial crisis is
expected to take over as the key theme of the meetings.
McIvor mentioned that the financial crisis was discussed at a
Senior Officials Meeting (SOM) in Thailand a couple weeks
ago, and a number of countries proposed a standalone
statement from ASEAN on this issue. Australia has done a
draft that is circulating among EAS members and will be
discussed next week in Tokyo by deputy Finance Ministers.
McIvor anticipates four elements in such a statement:
political intent to do something about the financial crisis,
underscoring the seriousness of the issue; support for the
Doha round of trade talks; reform of the global financial
institutions, and the under-representation of Asia in the
IFIs; and an EAS-specific initiative to support capacity
building on regional finance issues. New Zealand PM John Key
and Foreign Minister Murray McCully will likely attend the
EAS; Trade Minister Tim Groser is expected to go to Geneva
for WTO meetings, said McIvor.

4. (C) McIvor said that the GNZ is disappointed that the
EAS schedule is compressed but understands that the
government of Thailand is constrained by the domestic
political situation. McIvor discussed trade agreements under
consideration within the EAS -- both the ASEAN plus three and
ASEAN plus six Track 2 studies that are underway. New
Zealand, Australia, and ASEAN are prepared to sign an FTA on
December 17, which New Zealand hopes will be the basis for a
future EAS-wide FTA.

5. (C) McIvor noted that regional human rights issues have
been largely displaced as a result of the attention on the
financial crisis. He does not anticipate there will be much
discussion of Burma or Fiji at the meetings, although there
is likely to be mention of the DPRK and Afghanistan. Other
ambassadors accredited to ASEAN from Japan, Australia and New
Zealand (Philip Gibson from Indonesia) will be in Chiang Mai,
and McIvor offered that it may be useful for them to meet
with US Ambassador Scot Marciel. McIvor added that the ASEAN
Human Rights Body that is provided for in the ASEAN Charter
will be discussed during the meetings in Thailand.

New Zealand and ASEAN in the Future
-----------------------------------

6. (C) In terms of future goals, New Zealand will press for
a regular NZ-ASEAN summit, which McIvor noted was included in
MFAT transition papers for the new National Government. New
Zealand held an ad hoc summit with ASEAN in 2005 in Vientiane
during the 30th anniversary of New Zealand-ASEAN relations.
New Zealand has discussed the concept at officials levels,
and now that ASEAN is moving to two summits per year, it may
be easier to wrap a NZ-ASEAN summit into the schedule by
perhaps meeting every other year. New Zealand and Australia
are both seeking to join the Asia Europe Meeting (ASEM), said
McIvor. Australia was the first to pursue ASEM membership,
and the New Zealand government will be considering a
pros/cons paper, he added. If membership is opened to
Australia, New Zealand should also move in that direction,
said McIvor, although he added that ASEM would add another
layer of meetings to an already crowded regional schedule.
New Zealand will watch closely how Australian PM Rudd's
proposal for an Asia Pacific Community resonates with ASEAN,
as McIvor views such a construct as possibly threatening to
ASEAN's central role in the EAS. The APC could shift the
center of gravity away from ASEAN, which McIvor anticipated
would generate resistance from some ASEAN states.

7. (SBU) Comment: McIvor, who will be in Chiang Mai for
the ASEAN meetings, is leaving Wellington after Thailand to
assume the New Zealand ambassadorship in Dili, Timor Leste.
He has been an exceptionally helpful colleague and strong
advocate for improved US-NZ bilateral relations.


McCORMICK

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