Cablegate: Continuity Urged in Briefing to Nz Foreign Minister

DE RUEHWL #0413/01 3500228
R 150228Z DEC 08




E.O. 12958: N/A

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1. (SBU) Summary. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT)
Briefing to Incoming Ministers (BIM), publicly released on December
8, makes a strong case for continuing the policies and approach of
the previous government. The MFAT BIM provides the Ministry's
opening summary of its current policy approach and funding
expectations. MFAT's proposals for change were cautious and few.
Although the new National-led Government is likely to continue many
of the current policy settings, it nonetheless aims to promote more
ambition and accountability in NZ's foreign policy. Whether this
results in confrontation or partnership with MFAT remains to be
seen. End Summary.

Incoming Foreign and Trade Ministers Briefed

2. (SBU) On December 8, the New Zealand Government publicly
released the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade Briefing to
Incoming Ministers, or BIM. The purpose of the BIM, is to inform,
update and provide suggestions for incoming ministers. The 2008
MFAT BIM details New Zealand's key relationships around the world,
issues of regional and global importance, where and how it is
engaged internationally, what are its foreign policy challenges and
opportunities and who are the key domestic and international

Steady as She Goes

3. (SBU) Throughout the MFAT BIM there is a strong case for
continuity of policy settings from the previous government. The few
suggested deviations from current settings are typically mild and
cautiously delivered. The new government is not likely to
dramatically deviate from NZ's current foreign policy. Any changes
instructed by the new National-led Government will likely be only in
the margins and in tone.

Can a Bureaucracy be Bold?

4. (SBU) There have, however, been some acts of boldness in the new
government that have outweighed its instinctively cautious
officials. For example, Prime Minister John Key rejected a MFAT
drafted speech to be delivered at the November 22 APEC Business
Advisory Council in Peru for not being bold enough. Boldness and a
desire make its mark are not, however, uncommon traits in new
governments. Nonetheless, the capacity to sustain this high-tempo
start will be largely determined by NZ's deteriorating fiscal
position and the government's ability to resource its foreign
ministry. Already, there are signs that such constraints are
affecting MFAT's funding.

Can MFAT Defend Peters' "Political Trophy?

5. (SBU) Significant space in the BIM is allotted to the baseline
funding package - the "Step Change" budget - introduced in 2007 by
the previous government to enable MFAT to maintain capacity and
capability and to develop NZ's diplomatic footprint at home and
abroad over next five years. MFAT acknowledged, wistfully given its
early embrace of the funding, that in light of NZ's deteriorating
fiscal and economic position, there will be an "interim slow-down"
in the funding's implementation in areas where expenditure has not
already been incurred or committed. The language used by MFAT
points to a defense of the new funding to the new government which
has signaled well in advance that it aimed to review all public
sector spending (Note: When the National Party was in opposition, it
labeled the funding a "political trophy" for former Foreign Minister
Winston Peters, who championed it. End Note). Within this context,
MFAT makes the case to its new ministers that the new funding is
essential to enable superior near and long-term outcomes.

The Pacific: Democracy Promotion High on Agenda
--------------------------------------------- --

6. (SBU) In the Pacific, MFAT asserts that there are few, if any,
changes needed to current policy. Continuity of approach,
deliverables and outcomes are common themes. It acknowledges that
security and development in the region remain fragile and NZ must
continue to work in concert with others. Restoration of democracy
in Fiji and enhanced democracy in Tonga remain central to MFAT's
thinking in the region. Foreign Minister Murray McCully appears to
concur as he has just traveled to Fiji to take part in the Pacific
Forum Ministerial Contact Group tasked with encouraging Fiji's

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return to democratic rule. Additionally, on December 11 he
announced that the government would commit NZD1.5 million to support
the democratic reform process in Tonga. In the BIM, MFAT notes that
Melanesia is an increasing focus for NZ's diplomatic efforts to
address poverty and security issues prevalent in the region.

Israel Policy Could Change under New Govt

7. (SBU) In the Middle East, MFAT acknowledges that relations with
Israel have improved since the 2005 passport incident, but also
notes the complications posed by Israel's continued occupation of
Arab lands and its conduct in the occupied Palestinian territory.
This nuanced position may be challenged by the new government,
particularly if the desire of a senior Cabinet minister,
Attorney-General Chris Finlayson, for NZ to have a more supportive
position towards Israel gains support. Although supportive of the
Annapolis process, MFAT notes that prospects for final settlement
remain in doubt due to political uncertainties on both the Israeli
and Palestinian sides.

Flexibility and Increased Engagement in Asia

8. (SBU) In Asia, where MFAT believes the Step Change funding will
reap the most benefits for NZ, it calls for increased engagement and
influence. To win these benefits, MFAT believes that bilateral and
regional responses need to be "nimble" to maximise gains. Within
this context, nimble appears to refer to having a multifaceted
approach in the region, given its many complexities and variations.
On the U.S.-India Civilian Nuclear Co-Operation Agreement, MFAT
claims that NZ is credited, in part, for ensuring the implementation
of certain non-proliferation elements of the final agreement. NZ
will continue to closely monitor the Agreement's implementation.

9. (SBU) On Afghanistan, MFAT notes that officials are presently
drafting option papers for the Cabinet on NZ's future integrated
participation in Afghanistan and Timor Leste. A Defense White Paper
is due in 2009. MFAT reports that progress in Afghanistan remains
constrained by security challenges and capacity constraints of the
Kabul government. On Iran's nuclear ambitions, MFAT affirms that
Iran should meet IAEA and UNSC requirements and appears comforted by
the commitment by Israel and the U.S. to take the diplomatic track
to ease tensions.

10. (SBU) On matters of trade, MFAT's agenda affixes priority to
multilateral mechanisms. Its plurilateral agenda is topped by the
Trans-Pacific Strategic Economic Partnership (TPP), wherein it
highlights the U.S. role. MFAT recommends that a visit to the U.S.
by the Minister of Trade, Tim Groser, in either February or March
2009 (in advance of the planned TPP negotiation involving the U.S.)
may be of "merit." MFAT also suggests that early ministerial visits
to Korea and Japan could also bear fruit in possible closer trade
relations with those countries.

Resource Diplomacy High on MFAT Agenda

11. (SBU) Resource Diplomacy features heavily in MFAT activities and
plans. Ranging from climate change to whaling, MFAT notes that NZ
seeks to be active in providing solutions and working on a range of
related challenges. It acknowledges that the U.S. is NZ's key
partner in Antarctica on logistical, scientific and policy-related

Continuation of Activist Approach to Disarmament
--------------------------------------------- ---

12. (SBU) Though it recognises that the threat to NZ of a direct
terrorist attack remains relatively low, MFAT asserts that NZ is
committed to make a strong contribution to what it continues to term
the "International Campaign against Terrorism." Central to this
contribution is compliance with international counterterrorism
instruments, MFAT refers to the UN Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy
as a "key reference point." That being said, MFAT makes a case that
the NZ Government ratifying the Nuclear Terrorism Convention and the
2005 Amendment to the Convention of the Physical Protection of
Nuclear Materials will "send a strong signal of [NZ's] determination
to combat the threat of nuclear/radiological terrorism."

13. (SBU) The MFAT BIM states that NZ will continue to pursue an
activist disarmament agenda. It favours the strongest possible
outcome on nuclear disarmament with regard to the NPT Review

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Conference in 2010 and will work to that end. MFAT notes that a
planned Cabinet paper will recommend ratification of the Convention
on Cluster Munitions - of which NZ was one of the first to sign on
December 3 - subject to satisfactory completion of the scrutiny by
the NZ Parliament (likely to be favorable given that the first
public act of the new Disarmament Minister, Georgina te Heu Heu, was
to sign the Convention and the fact that Labour Party in-government
fully backed the Oslo Process).

Aid Restructuring Likely

14. (SBU) In response to the 2007 annual audit, in which the New
Zealand Agency for International Development (NZAID) received a
"poor" rating for its control environment and contract management,
MFAT proposes a new organizational structure which, if approved by
ministers, is expected to take 12-18 months to implement. Though
the audit assessed no risk, MFAT have been on the defensive about
its aid program and organizational structure. In part, this
particular proposal reflects this. Foreign Minister McCully, in
line with the new government's drive for fiscal accountability in
the public sector, has already ordered a review of NZ's targeted aid
program. Although, there are no signs that the objective to provide
substantial developmental assistance, especially to the Pacific,
will change, the means and calibration of its delivery could.

Comment: Will Ambition lead to Friction?

15. (SBU) Despite National's promise to conduct a bipartisan
foreign policy, in addition to its ready adoption of many positions
and policies of the former Labour-led administration, it has made
clear that it wants to see foreign policy conducted both with more
"ambition" (a term fast becoming a National clich) and greater
accountability. It will be worth watching how much change those
objectives produce and whether those changes result from a
partnership or confrontation between MFAT and its ministers. End


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