English meets Merkel

Bill English has met with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in the last engagement on his European trip.

NZ Herald: PM homeward bound after crucial Merkel meeting

English’s first trip as Prime Minister saw him undertake a precarious balancing act of trying to keeping onside with both the EU and the UK – without taking sides to ensure New Zealand was not trampled underfoot by either in the ensuing melee of Brexit.

English had described Germany as the “de facto leader of Europe” and Merkel’s influence is such that her say so will be critical if the New Zealand free trade agreement is to be signed in anything even close to the 2-3 year timeframe European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker has estimated.

As with most trade deals New Zealand is unlikely to be a priority for much bigger partners.

Merkel has a lot to deal with in Germany, including an election this year, and also the very contentious immigration issues Europe and Germany are having to deal with.

The other big issue English was interested in talking to Merkel about was the migration issues in Europe – including coping with refugees which Merkel is now facing criticism over, including from US President-elect Donald Trump.

That could see Merkel seeking more help in dealing with the Syrian refugees from English – although English has previously said New Zealand was doing enough.

Although English diligently avoided criticising either the UK or the EU over Brexit, he did make it clear that the free trade deal with the EU was the priority for New Zealand’s interests – not only because it is likely to happen sooner but also because it is much larger.

English said New Zealand’s decision to follow the EU’s lead on Russia was paying off in terms of the agreement with the EU.

“If we can get a trade deal, get up and going with it and get it done in the kind of time that the Europeans are talking about, I think that would be partly because of the relationship we have built up and some of the common stance we have taken around issues like dealing with Russia.”

This illustrates what a balancing act international relations can be. New Zealand wants trade deals with all of the European Union, the UK and Russia but also needs to walk a fine line supporting or opposing other issues between the three.

I presume this trip had been arranged while John Key was still in charge, but English has dived into the deep end on his first big international trip as Prime Minister.

Bill English on climate change

Newshub reports that Prime Minister Bill English now ‘definitely believes in man-made climate change’, a change from being less definite. From PM reveals his views on climate change in 2013:

Russel Norman asked “does he accept that human-induced climate change is real? To which Mr English replied “well Mr Speaker it may well be.”

When Newshub asked Mr English again seven months later, he simply said “look there’s some impact.”

Now:

When asked on Monday if he believes climate change is happening, Mr English said “ah yes I think it does occur.”

But he won’t be rushing into dealing with climate change with Donald Trump:

Before his resignation John Key said he’d prioritise raising climate change with incoming US President Donald Trump.

Mr English hasn’t yet decided if he’ll do the same.

“Look I haven’t considered those issues simply because it looks like [it will be] some time before I’ll be in a position to raise those issues,” Mr English said.

It would be wise to wait and see which way the wind blows with the incoming Trump administration and climate change, and whether the new White House can be bothered dealing with New Zealand.

Japan, Australia still backing TPP

After an official meeting the leaders of Japan and Australia have said they were committed to proceeding with the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement.

RNZ: Japan, Australia both back TPP

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull made the announcement after their official meeting as part of Mr Abe’s four-country trip to boost Japan’s trade and security in the Asia-Pacific region.

In his first visit to Australia since Mr Turnbull became Prime Minister, he said both leaders were committed to ensuring the 12-country TPP trade deal would come into effect.

“On the economic front we agreed that we should demonstrate anew the importance of free trade,” he said.

“We confirmed that we would coordinate toward the early entry into force of the TPP and the prompt conclusion of the RCEP [Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership].”

There is still a major problem though – Donald Trump has said made a priority of taking the US out of the TPP.

The commitment came despite United States President-elect Donald Trump criticising the TPP as a “potential disaster” for the US and vowing to prioritise withdrawing from the pact.

Mr Abe, who had previously said the TPP would be meaningless without the US, said the countries also agreed to maintain “solid cooperation” with the Trump administration.

NZ Herald report that Bill English says a rethink on the TPP may be necessary in Bill English optimistic about Donald Trump US presidency

One of Trump’s first acts will affect New Zealand’s interests – Trump has pledged to initiate the US withdrawal from the Trans Pacific Partnership on his first day in office.

Australian PM Malcolm Turnbull and Japan PM Shinzo Abe met recently to discuss how to salvage the TPP and English said he was not ready to give up altogether either.

“I wouldn’t say it is futile, but I think along with those countries, we need to rethink our approach. It could be as soon as next week that the US executes its position and that means we need to rethink it.”

“I would hope there would be a way of keeping the US engaged in the Asia Pacific and the TPP certainly would have done that. There may have to be some adaptation or some other way of doing that.”

‘Rethink’ may mean trying to do a TPP without the US, unless Trump makes a major reversal on his stance.

Labour’s negative campaign

For about a decade Labour have tried to defeat National by attacking John Key, without success. Now they seem to be trying to repeat the same tactics against new Prime Minister Bill English.

labourversusenglish

It doesn’t mention the name of who they they think ‘it’s time’ to be Prime Minister. Are Labour hedging their bets about who might be leading them at the election?

What are Labour’s values? Dredging up old stuff to attack opponents?

There is nothing positive about this. Repeating past mistakes is a very questionable strategy.

I don’t see how this negativity will appeal to many voters, let alone people who might consider joining ‘the campaign’.

I hoped Labour would have hit election year promoting themselves and showing how they can be different. Same old is a bad start.

NZ wants post-Brexit trade deal

On his visit to Europe Prime Minister Bill English has met with his UK counterpart and says that New Zealand will seek a free trade deal with the UK as soon as possible ‘after Brexit’ (presumably after the UK has severed it’s ties with the European Union). And the UK is willing as soon as it is able to.

English is also working towards an EU trade deal.

RNZ: NZ to pursue post-Brexit trade deal

Britain is not able to sign trade deals with third countries while it remains a member of the European Union, but the British government has said it is keen to start preparatory work so agreements can be reached quickly after it leaves.

Mr English met with Mrs May in London overnight.

“We are ready to negotiate a high-quality free trade agreement with the UK when it is in a position to do so,” Mr English said at a news conference.

“We already have a strong and diversified trading relationship with the UK and a free trade agreement will build on that.”

English also met European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and has talked about a trade deal there.

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said talks with New Zealand could be wrapped up far more quickly than is normal, perhaps in just two to three years.

At a separate briefing with reporters later on Friday, Mr English said he expected the New Zealand-EU deal to be completed before a New Zealand-Britain agreement.

That’s because there’s uncertainty about when the UK will exit the EU and how that will work out in Britain.

“It is difficult to formulate what kind of agreement we would have until it is clear what position the UK is in at the end of Brexit,” he said.

Mrs May said that while Britain remained in the EU, it would work to support an EU-New Zealand trade deal, while also making preparations for a future “bold new” bilateral agreement.

The formal process to leave the EU is scheduled to begin at the end of March but not much detail is known yet.

As Missy posted “Theresa May is expected to give a speech to outline the plan for Brexit in the next week or so”.

Ngapuhi elder backs PM’s Waitangi decision

While there has been some criticism of Prime Minister Bill English’s decision not to attend the contentious part of the Waitangi celebrations there has also been a lot of support.

Ngapuhi elder Kingi Taurua, on reviewing  an exchange of letters between English’s office and the Waitangi Marae Organising Committee, has switched to supporting English’s stance, saying he had egg on his face after his initial criticism.

NZ Herald: Ngapuhi elder now backs PM’s Waitangi no show: ‘I wouldn’t go either’

A Ngapuhi elder says he wants to apologise to Prime Minister Bill English for calling him a “spoilt child” for not attending Waitangi – saying he now backs English’s decision to stay away.

Kingi Taurua said since making his criticism of English he had seen a letter that was sent to the Prime Minister’s office by the Waitangi Marae Organising Committee.

That stated that during the pre-Waitangi Day powhiri it was preferred that English’s “Maori representatives” speak on his behalf. After the powhiri there would be another event where English and others could freely talk, including about political issues.

Taurua told the Herald that he had mistakenly believed that English had only been told he could not talk politics during the powhiri.

He now felt he had “egg on my face” after he called on English not to be “a spoilt child and run away”, and wanted to meet the Prime Minister on his return from an official visit to Europe to offer an apology.

“I wouldn’t go either. If I got that letter, telling me not to speak and to get somebody else to speak on my behalf, I wouldn’t go anywhere near the place.”

“I want these guys [on the organising committee] out. I want these young bucks to get out. I want now the elderly people to take control of Waitangi Day.

“I’m not happy at all. A lot of the tribe are not happy.”

Taurua said there would be a meeting at Waitangi today.

The letters are here: PM and Waitangi Marae

Also John Armstrong: The tiresome antics at Waitangi have undermined the power and symbolism of the occasion

Bill English has done the right thing in following John Key’s example and opting to maintain National’s prime ministerial boycott of national day commemorations at Waitangi.

That remains the case, despite English opening himself up to accusations that his refusal to front at the birthplace of the nation’s founding document, on the anniversary of its signing, amounts to both a serious dereliction of prime ministerial duty failure of leadership.

The new prime minister’s decision to follow in his predecessor’s footsteps, and stay away from Waitangi, is the right one not only for himself.

It is the right one for the National Party.

Of even more significance, it is more likely than not the right decision for the country.

The brutal truth is that while the Treaty’s influence has grown to the point where it is now cemented into New Zealand’s unwritten constitution, Waitangi Day is sinking under the weight of its conflicting roles.

Bill English on UN Israel vote

Prime Minister Bill English has commented in support of the New Zealand position on the United Nations vote that condemned Israeli settlements.

NZ Herald reports:

Speaking today before he flew out to Europe for an official visit, Prime Minister Bill English said the issues surrounding the resolution were highly politicised in Israel.

“But the position of the New Zealand Government should have been well understood … we have got a realistic understanding of the pressures in the Middle East. That’s why in our time on the Security Council we wanted to see some advancement on the Middle East peace process. And the resolution in that sense is pretty balanced.

That sounds much the same as Murray McCully has said.

“New Zealand has been a long time friend of Israel, we have a range of connections, trade, increasingly technology and innovation. And it would be a shame if us expressing a view that might not line up exactly with the Israeli Government was seen as somehow being unfriendly or changing that relationship.”

Some advancement on the Middle East peace process would be a good thing, but the prospects don’t look good at the moment.

Both Israel and the Palestinians have to want a lasting solution, and it’s doubtful either do.

Waitangi Day ‘cringe’

Bill English has not surprisingly provoked some comment when he rsaid “A lot of New Zealanders cringe a bit on Waitangi Day …”, but Waitangi Day ‘cringe’ comes from lack of understanding, Maori Party says

English has attracted controversy while defending his decision to skip Waitangi commemorations due to a lack of speaking rights, saying protests at Waitangi had been “nationally relevant” 15 to 20 years ago but were not anymore.

“Political discussion at Te Tii Marae is now really about Ngapuhi issues and their own concerns in Northland, but it’s a national day, a day for New Zealanders to be proud of their whole country.”

“A lot of New Zealanders cringe a bit on Waitangi Day when they see the way that the ceremonies are being conducted, the ceremonies and welcomes, the type of protest there has been in recent years, and I’m pretty keen that we have a day when they’re proud.”

Maori Party co-leader Marama Fox…

…said English’s comments were “unfortunate” and did not match up with her perspective of the day’s importance.

“A lot of New Zealanders may feel that way, but that comes from a lack of understanding, a lack of education, and a lack of acceptance of the place of Maori in this country, so when that changes, we’ll all have a greater, united Aotearoa.”

Fox said she would have liked English to attend Waitangi commemorations, but his decision would not affect her plans to go.

“We are not the Maori arm of the National Party – we are going to attend as the Maori Party, and I will be taking my place in the powhiri, and I’m pretty sure nobody’s given me an opportunity to have a stage to speak, and I’m not concerned about that.”

Waitangi and Te Tii Marae were “surrounded in Maori protocol”, and it was up to marae leaders to decide whether someone could speak.

There are a number of protocols that I participate in at Parliament that I think are antiquated and should move on – those are my opinions. It is for Maori and the people of Te Tii, the people of Waitangi to decide how the programme should run – it’s their place.”

Fair enough, to an extent, about “Maori protocol” in a Maori forum, but if Waitangi Day is to ever become widely seen and felt to be a national day of significance then the commemorations need to involve and include both partners to the treaty, not just Maori.

PM at Waitangi – no speak, no go

Prime Minister Bill English says he won’t go to Waitangi on Waitangi Day because he has been told he wouldn’t be able to speak.

Newshub: Bill English to skip Waitangi celebrations

Bill English is planning to spend his first Waitangi Day as Prime Minister in Auckland – not Waitangi.

The Prime Minister traditionally attends the traditional powhiri at Te Tii Marae, but Mr English has turned down the marae’s invitation because they’re not willing to let him speak.

“After the issues surrounding the previous Prime Minister’s attendance at Te Tii Marae last year, my office sought clarification from marae kaumatua that I would be welcomed and able speak about issues of importance to New Zealand, as is tradition.

“However, my office was advised I could attend the powhiri but not speak – conditions which are not acceptable to me.”

Fair enough. There’s no point in going to Waitangi and being the subject of protests and abuse when he won’t have a right to speak.

John Key didn’t attend last year, and Helen Clark stopped attending in 2004.

Mr English will still go to Waitangi, just not on Waitangi Day. He’s accepted an invitation to lead a delegation of ministers to meet the Iwi Chair’s Forum on February 3.

So he isn’t snubbing Waitangi altogether, he’s just trying to avoid what has become a protest circus. Last year a woman threw a dildo at Steven Joyce, this won’t have helped restore confidence in Waitangi being a respectable forum.

English on the job

Bill English has emerged from the holiday period via  Media Statement (that isn’t obvious on his Parliamentary web page nor the National Party website).

He will be hitting 2017 with a significant international trip, a big outing for him early in his tenure as Prime Minister.


PM to travel to Brussels, London and Berlin

Prime Minister Bill English will travel to Brussels, London and Berlin next week to meet with leaders to discuss issues including trade and security.

“This is an opportunity to exchange views on a range of issues facing Europe and the world, and to reaffirm that New Zealand remains a committed friend and partner,” Mr English says.

“The focus of my trip will be to advance New Zealand business and trade opportunities in the region, including starting the negotiations on an FTA with the European Union this year.”

In Brussels, Mr English will meet with the three Presidents of the EU – European Council President Donald Tusk, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and European Parliament President Martin Schulz. He will also meet with Belgium’s Prime Minister Charles Michel.

In London, Mr English will meet with Prime Minister Theresa May and Mayor Sadiq Khan.

“I will be interested to hear Prime Minister May’s views on Brexit and will take the opportunity to reaffirm New Zealand’s commitment to working towards a high quality trade deal when the UK is in a position to negotiate.”

In Berlin, Mr English will meet with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble.

Mr English will also meet with a range of other government, business and academic leaders to hear their views on the political, economic and security situation in the region and about opportunities for New Zealand there.

The Prime Minister will be accompanied by Trade Minister Todd McClay in Brussels and Foreign Minister Murray McCully in London and Berlin.

Dr Mary English will also travel with the Prime Minister.

Mr English will leave New Zealand on 9 January and return on 18 January.

– Scoop