Peters: Commonwealth leaders excited about trade agreement

Winston Peters has said that Commonwealth leaders are excited about a putting a 53 trade agreement together, and want to start before the United Kingdom leaves the European Union next year – but I don’t think the UK can start trade deals until they are out of the EU.

RNZ: Excitement over Commonwealth-wide free trade agreement

Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters is talking up the prospect of a free trade agreement between all 53 commonwealth nations after discussions in London over the weekend.

New Zealand is already working on trade agreements with Britain and the European Union as Brexit looms, but Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters said there was a lot of excitement at CHOGM about a possible free trade agreement between all the commonwealth nations.

He said leaders want to get started on the deal before the UK leaves the EU next March.

“There’s a whole lot of excitement about that and how we might begin to put some flesh to an idea, which was levelled two years ago, but since 23 June 2016 it’s become real and so that was very exciting.

“A whole lot of countries – without saying too much about it – realise there’s something very exciting and new about this,” he said.

That’s an odd statement – he thinks they are all excited without saying much?

It would be a big task putting a deal together with so many countries. It would need to be quite general and could be relatively limited. Otherwise there could be a lot of inter-country details to work out.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said there was potential in the deal, but New Zealand’s main focus was on the EU and UK Free Trade Agreements – which represent $15 billion and $5bn in trade.

“That’s where we’re focused, but at the same time we do see there being benefit to us continuing to nudge along the fact that where we have these platforms – as we have with the East Asia summit and the Pacific Alliance – that actually the platforms provide a good starting point for a discussion around trade.”

Ardern is one leader who doesn’t seem as excited as Peters suggests, but maybe she could get absolutely excited at nudging it along.

The UK and EU agreements are expected to take years to work out, and if the main focus is on them then a Commonwealth wide agreement could take a long time – quite possibly longer than Peters is a Minister.

National Party trade spokesperson Todd McClay said he was hopeful of Commonwealth discussions, but was wary of so many players being involved.

“India hasn’t done a high-quality free trade deal with any country of the world yet, it would be really good if they would do one with New Zealand.

“I’m just a bit cautious around how much progress could be made Commonwealth-wide, because the more parties you put around a table the greater the challenges. We saw that with TPP,” he said.

Mr McClay also said any notion that a Commonwealth deal could be struck before Brexit took place was impossible.

“That’s just not going to happen – TPP with just 12 countries took nine years to negotiate, the countries were similar, the Commonwealth are very different types of economies and very different parts of the world.

“It is worth us being part of that conversation and helping to move it forward, but it can’t go before our desire for a free trade agreement with the UK and with the European Union,” he said.

It may be difficult for Peters to sustain his excitement.

Ardern wearing a korowai in London

Jacinda Ardern got the full royal treatment by the Queen, Prince Charles, various leaders and the media covering her trip to the United Kingdom last week to attend a Commonwealth Heads of Government summit. At one event she wore a korowai (Māori cloak), which prompted mostly praise but also some criticism.

It’s hard to know what all that was supposed to mean.

BBC: Why Ardern’s Maori cloak, worn to meet the Queen, delighted New Zealand

When New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern wore a traditional Maori cloak to meet the Queen, it had quite a few people scratching their heads – and most New Zealanders glowing with pride.

It’s a korowai, a garment woven with feathers and steeped in history, tradition and cultural significance.

The photos of Ms Ardern wearing the korowai have generated a wave of pride, enthusiasm and support online, with people praising it as “stunning” and “beautiful”, while New Zealanders have been filled with pride and respect.

“It makes me really emotional,” Ranui Ngarimu, a senior weaver with the Nga Tahu Maori tribe, told the BBC. “It’s a real acknowledgment of the prestige and power of a woman.”

“To wear something that is so intrinsically of this place here, and for her to wear it at that event knowing that she would be photographed from every angle, that’s a real acknowledgment of her relationship with the Maori people and with New Zealand.

“Korowai are a very special form of cloak,” explains Vini Olsen-Reeder, himself a Maori and a lecturer at Victoria University. “There are lots of different kinds of cloaks, but the korowai is the one with the highest prestige.”

Traditionally, it would be awarded only to people from the upper echelons of Maori society, or given as a gift to people from outside the community if they were thought to be of equally high standing.

In this case the korowai was given to Ms Ardern by a Maori group in London, for her to wear at the Commonwealth Summit.

“The significance of the garment is the prestige that comes with it,” agrees Donna Campbell, lecturer in Maori studies at Waikato University in Hamilton.

“What it represents is the mana of a person, that’s the prestige and power of the person wearing it. So for Jacinda to be wearing it at this event is completely fits with the weight of the occasion; from a Maori point of view, this garment is entirely appropriate.”

It is not unprecedented for non Māori women to wear korowai:

Queen Elizabeth II wearing a korowai, 1954

Queen Elizabeth II wearing a korowai, 1954

Queen Elizabeth II was gifted a korowai (woven cloak) during her first tour of New Zealand in 1953–54. New Zealand does not have a specific national dress, but Māori cloaks are often worn by dignitaries as a symbol of the country.

There has been some criticism, like Cultural Appropriation Much? Jacinda Ardern’s Maori Cloak

Cultural appropriation is where the members of a dominant grouping in society use and – well, appropriate – take the signifiers of the culture of an oppressed or dispossessed part of society.

We do, after all, have to insist that the Maori are oppressed in New Zealand society. Absolutely nothing at all about politics there makes sense without agreeing with that point. Ardern is one of the oppressing class, descended as she is from Northern Europeans doing all that oppressing. And her wearing a Maori cloak is obviously appropriation from that non-dominant culture.

This also got an airing at Reddit:

Something I don’t see addressed here is the origin of the cloak, I work in an organisation with a strong Maori presence and culture, in many cases people outside of Maori culture in the organisation have been gifted similar items by the Maori people for their service, this is where it stops being appropriation and becomes appreciation.

If she bestowed it on herself or other white people bestowed it on her though then that’s a whole shit show.

While Ardern was given the korowai to wear on the occasion it is quite common seeing them worn at graduations, and you can ‘bestow a korowai on yourself’ – Academic Dress Hire: Korowai

We are now selling Korowai, which are stunning cloaks that look great on graduation day, and make a fantastic family heirloom. The cloaks come with an export certificate should you wish to take them overseas. The cloaks come in various colours and there is a significant amount of work that goes into each Korowai.

It is worn as a mantle of prestige and honor. Everyone has different reasons for wearing Korowai on their graduation day whether it be a sense of identity, a graduation acknowledgement, a congratulatory gift, a connection to our NZ heritage or family tradition.

We are pleased to offer them to you at $700.00 incl.

The Māori dictionary suggests that usage has changed over time.

1. (noun) cloak ornamented with black twisted tags or thrums – the illustration is of the korowai, Te Whiringa Rongomaiwhiti, woven by Gloria Taituha of Ngāti Maniapoto. The feathers of the korowai are of pūkeko (dark blue) and kererū (white).

2. (noun) cloak – in modern Māori this is sometimes used as a general term for cloaks made of muka (New Zealand flax fibre).

He whero ngā huruhuru o te taha whakararo o ngā parirau o te kākā. Ka rangaa he korowai mō te tāngata whakahirahira i ēnei huruhuru (Te Ara 2014). / The feathers under the wings of kākā are red. These feathers were woven into cloaks for important people.

Korowai became popular in the 1800s, and were made out of things like dog skins and the feathers of birds like kiwi, kererū , kākāpō, tūī, kākāriki and kākā. I presume they use other things now.

I guess the koro in korowai comes from ‘term of address to an older man’ and not ‘bay, cove, inlet’ or ‘noose’.

‘Wai’ can mean ‘water’, ‘stream, creek, river’, or ‘tears’.

What may stand out on this occasion is that the Prime Minister wore one at an overseas political summit. I can’t recall or find anything about John Key being given a korowai to wear. Neither Helen Clark, nor any other Prime Minister.

But Ardern seems to have quickly become the queen of symbolism. Time will tell whether she and her Government become known for substance on Māori and other issues – and that will need to be earned by Ardern, not gifted.

Peters on Commonwealth and EU trade

While Minister of Foreign Affairs Winston Peters has been largely overshadowed by Jacinda Ardern as both visit Europe and the United Kingdom, he has been reported commenting on trade agreement possibilities.

Stuff: Winston Peters says Commonwealth countries open to multilateral trade deal

The bones of a Commonwealth free trade deal have been laid out and the EU is also turning an eye to the Pacific, says Foreign Minister Winston Peters.

He made the comments at the back end of a tour where he visited UK and EU leaders before meeting Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern in London to attend the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting.

“There’s a whole lot of excitement about that and how we might again, put some flesh to an idea. It was [non-existent] two years ago, but since the 23 June, 2016 it’s become real.  That was very exciting. And a whole lot of countries, without saying too much about it realise there’s something very exciting and new about this.”

Peters said there was a hope that the foundations could be laid for a multilateral agreement within the Commonwealth countries, before the UK had left the European Union.

“And it was thrilling to get that sort of acceptance that we needed to talk more and do things far more often.

It is early days for all of these trade initiatives. The UK can’t do anything until they have sorted Brexit out, and while Germany and France have stated support for an EU agreement that has to be negotiated and approved by all member countries.

At least it gives Peters something to work on now that his Russian trade aims have been taken off the Government table.

“For decades we’ve seen enormous cynicism about the Commonwealth, don’t forget it started with eight countries. That’s a long time ago and it’s 53 now, possible 54 if the Maldives comes back. And that fact is that things have dramatically changed.”

He said the rest of the world “needs the Commonwealth” and the Commonwealth needed New Zealand to be a voice within it.

“It needs a country called New Zealand to show its kind of values that could be seriously important towards the economic security of the Pacific and indeed the world we live in.”

The world doesn’t need the Commonwealth. And the Commonwealth doesn’t need New Zealand – I’m sure it would manage to continue as a largely irrelevant grouping of countries without us.

But it does provide a chance to meet leaders from a bunch of countries every now and then, and to try to get things moving on trade deals. And we get to gather to do some sports every four years.

Changing flags of the Commonwealth

In Lochore: Give flag vote a chance the NZ Herald has an interesting picture of how flags have changed in the British Commonwealth as countries have become more independent.

flagscommonwealth

Only four out of twenty countries have retained their old flags.

New Zealand’s flag change process is getting interest back in the ‘old country’, the BBC report on How should New Zealand choose a new flag?

It’s a vexillologist’s dream. New Zealand has kicked off a public consultation amid a debate on changing its flag. But where should the nation draw its inspiration from?

When it comes to flag changes countries have often turned to symbols from nature and indigenous heritage, but politics is always and inevitably part of the formula.

PM John Key first mooted the change last year and called for dropping the Union Jack as it represents the country’s colonial era “whose time has passed”. He also complained that New Zealand’s flag looks too much like Australia’s.

Key has complained. Like in Flag needs to ‘scream NZ’: John Key.

“It’s just sheer confusion with Australia. Even at APEC [in China last month] they tried to take me to [Australian Prime Minister Tony] Abbott’s seat.”

We don’t want to follow the Aussies, we should lead them in flag distinction.