Tillerson in New Zealand

There was nothing dramatic about US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s visit to New Zealand yesterday. There were some protests against him and the US but Tillerson is not Trump, and regardless of who is in power in the US New Zealand has to maintain relations with them..

NZ Herald:  US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson: US not giving up on NZ, Pacific

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has dismissed New Zealand’s concerns about its future role in the Asia-Pacific and the US withdrawal from the Paris Agreement, saying it reflected the will of the American people.

Prime Minister Bill English raised New Zealand’s disagreement about the decision to withdraw from the climate change accord in a meeting with Tillerson on Tuesday.

Tillerson was in New Zealand as an add-on to his trip to Australia, meeting with English and Foreign Affairs Minister Gerry Brownlee at Premier House before jetting out again five hours after he landed.

He is the first senior member of the US Administration to visit New Zealand and US media travelling with him reported people in Wellington gave the one-finger salute at his motorcade in an apparent show of disgust over the US withdrawal from the Paris Agreement.

He said there was no suggestion the US was stepping away from such issues, trying to isolate itself or giving up on the Asia-Pacific, pointing to recent visits to the region by US Vice-President Mike Pence and Defence Secretary Mattis.

“One of the reasons I’m in the region … is to reaffirm to everyone that the United States views this region of the world as extremely important to both our national security interest and our own economic and prosperity interests.

“I think you can expect to see an elevated level of engagement to that you saw over the past eight years.”

NZ Herald:  Top US diplomat reassures English that engagement will increase

Tillerson defended Trump from a New Zealand reporter’s description of him as “unpredictable” in relation to the US withdrawal from the Trans-Pacific Partnership deal and from the Paris Accord on climate change.

But Tillerson did not defend the indefensible: Trump’s tweet criticising London mayor Sadiq Khan for warning citizens there would be extra police on the streets because of the terrorist threat and not to be alarmed.

I think that it was a bit silly asking Tillerson about controlling Trump’s tweeting. But Trump’s very public interactions mist be a headache for the Secretary of State.

It was an illustration of the impossible mission for Trump’s foreign-focused Cabinet members, Tillerson and Defence Secretary James Mattis – for every step forward they make in reassuring friends and allies that the US has not gone gaga, it is two tweets back.

But there was serious business to discuss as well.

English welcomed the Tillerson visit and his reassurances as though he had ridden in on a white charger.

With only five visits to New Zealand in the past 20 years, more often than not Secretaries of State have taken the short-cut home after a visit to Australia.

The fact that Tillerson made the visit to New Zealand so early in his term is evidence of what he said at his press conference – that the US intends to elevate its presence in the region.

NZ Herald:  Fact or fiction: Tillerson on the United States’ ‘unparalleled’ climate change record

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson defended his country’s record on climate change during a whistle-stop visit to Wellington today.

“The United States has an extraordinary record of reducing greenhouse gas emissions, possibly unparalleled by anyone else.

“Our greenhouse gas emissions are at levels that were last seen in the 1990s.

“That’s been done with 50 million more energy consumers that we had in the 1990s, with an economy that’s twice as large.”

Fact or fiction?

Environmental Protection Agency records show that US greenhouse gas emissions in 2015 were 3.5 per cent higher than in 1990.

They were 6.7 per cent lower in 2015 than the highest point in the 1990s, in 1999.

The US population actually grew by closer to 76 million people over this period, going from 249 million in 1990 to 325 million in 2017 – an increase of 30.5 per cent. Its GDP nearly doubled from $8.9 trillion to $16.8 trillion.

So Tillerson’s statement that US emissions were now at “1990 levels” despite large demographic and economic growth stacks up.

However, his claim that the US record on reducing emissions is “unparalleled” is not as accurate.

English and Brownlee played things straight and diplomatic with Tillerson, as they must.



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1 Comment

  1. artcroft

     /  7th June 2017

    Seems like Trump is heading back to his reality TV background with threats (“You’re Fired”) to Jeff Session’s. Standby for “America’s next Attorney General”. 😉

    And given Trump’s instability the sequel could be “America’s next Foreign Secretary”.


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