Blog Link: New Zealand’s Coming Melian Dilemma.

datePosted on 09:54, September 14th, 2010 by Pablo

There appears to be a lack of strategic foresight in the conduct of New Zealand’s foreign policy, which appears to me to be short-term, segmented and opportunistic in approach. I explain one possible consequence in this month’s Word from Afar column in Scoop.

34 Responses to “Blog Link: New Zealand’s Coming Melian Dilemma.”

  1. Carol on September 14th, 2010 at 10:00
  2. Pablo on September 14th, 2010 at 10:06

    Thanks Carol.

    I am not sure why it did not go through the first time but I have now managed to correct the problem.

  3. Thomas Beagle on September 14th, 2010 at 14:28

    Does the US really have a policy for building and maintaining their power in the Pacific, other than trying to bully countries into one-sided trade agreements (ACTA, TPP)? Everyone saw how they screwed over Australia.

    If they wanted us on their side, shouldn’t they do something to encourage that?

  4. dave brown on September 14th, 2010 at 21:08

    Singapore may resolves the ancient dilemma by siding with the US. So does NZ since the UK ceased to be the dominant imperialism. But China will rapidly overtake Australia as NZ’s main trading partner as it is already of Australia.
    The NZ ruling class will follow the Australian ruling class to where the profits are – China. The US is already losing influence to China in Asia, Latin America and Africa.
    But why should ‘we’ join either one or other imperialism? The ruling class will go with the profits, whereas ‘we’ can unite with workers in both (all) of these countries.
    21st century capitalist imperialism is not ancient slave society. We don’t have to follow our leaders. The working class can become the independent variable.
    Making common cause with Chinese workers is the least risk strategy.

  5. Pablo on September 15th, 2010 at 01:46

    DaveB: I think that the chances of promoting cross-national proletarian solidarity between NZ and Chinese workers in opposition to elite imperialism are quite remote for a variety of reasons. Unfortunately, this is an elite power game and will be resolved as such without consultation from workers in any of the countries involved. I do agree that all signs point to NZ aligning with China once the crunch is on, which would make it the first OECD country to become a Chinese colony or dependency.

    TB: The US is trying to counter growing Chinese influence in the Pacific and SE Asia, but it is led by the military. You may want to check out the two part series I wrote on the US-China rivalry in Scoop in September 2009–there are blog links here at KP that you can use to get to them. Just look up posts under my name or “international relations,” “foreign affairs” etc.

  6. Jimbo on September 15th, 2010 at 19:18

    It seems a bit ‘black & white’ to suggest that just China and the USA have competing interests in the wider Pacific region.
    I increasingly consider the feasibility of Australia and NZ joining the EU, and Pacific Island states forming an associated economic and political zone with both countries.
    I believe the EU would find such an arrangement very useful in the long term.
    It seems culturally, economically and politically more relevant for Australia and NZ to join the EU than merely align with either China or the USA.

  7. Stuart Mackey on September 15th, 2010 at 20:03

    It seems a bit ‘black & white’ to suggest that just China and the USA have competing interests in the wider Pacific region.
    I increasingly consider the feasibility of Australia and NZ joining the EU, and Pacific Island states forming an associated economic and political zone with both countries.
    I believe the EU would find such an arrangement very useful in the long term.
    It seems culturally, economically and politically more relevant for Australia and NZ to join the EU than merely align with either China or the USA.

    One does not align with the EU, one is either in it, and all that that implies, or out of it. I don’t see anything inviting about the EU, as it seems to be stripping nations progressively off their independence and sovereignty.

    I would welcome a Commonwealth free trade zone myself, and all that that could potentially imply in the long term. As the UK is no longer a superpower, but still maintains very good military/industrial capacity (providing they don’t commit strategic seppuku in the upcoming strategic review), and as the Commonwealth works on a basis of equality, and, above all, has India in it.
    A nice counterbalance to China methinks.

  8. Jimbo on September 15th, 2010 at 20:48

    The principles of the nation state, sovereignty and independence are all relative and fluid.

    If for a period of time it was, on balance, in NZ’s interest [along with that of Australia] to join the EU, then it seems an option well worth considering as a counter balance to either Chinese or American dominance within the region.

    With the Pacific Island states in economic and political association with both AU/NZ, it also dilutes China-USA attempts to cherry pick UN votes and natural resource deals and reduce our influence in the region.

  9. Stuart Mackey on September 15th, 2010 at 21:00

    If for a period of time it was, on balance, in NZ’s interest [along with that of Australia] to join the EU, then it seems an option well worth considering as a counter balance to either Chinese or American dominance within the region.

    I dont see how surrendering our independence saves our independence or reduces Chinese/US influence in this regions as the EU does not have the capacity to deal with either in our region.

    With the Pacific Island states in economic and political association with both AU/NZ, it also dilutes China-USA attempts to cherry pick UN votes and natural resource deals and reduce our influence in the region.

    We would not have any interest, as we would no longer be truly independent

  10. Jimbo on September 15th, 2010 at 21:23

    Independence is a relative term.

    Compared with Samoa, Fiji, Tuvalu and Vanuatu [for example] we certainly can act more independently.

    Compared with China and the USA? The original article suggests how our ‘independence’ is already limited.

    The EU does have the capacity to deal with both China and the USA in other ways and other places.

  11. Stuart Mackey on September 15th, 2010 at 22:54

    Independence is a relative term.

    We don’t gain anything by being less independent

    Compared with Samoa, Fiji, Tuvalu and Vanuatu [for example] we certainly can act more independently.

    Yes.

    Compared with China and the USA? The original article suggests how our ‘independence’ is already limited.

    So why reduce that even further?

    The EU does have the capacity to deal with both China and the USA in other ways and other places.

    The European population is getting smaller and will soon be getting poorer as a result, their demographics guarantee this. Smaller populations will shrink already anemic armed forces that cannot project serious power as it is, and these two things are what matters, money and hard power. British and French nukes guarantee their safety, but they are a use it or loose it option that offer nothing in between.

  12. Jimbo on September 16th, 2010 at 14:51

    Clearly ‘independence’ means different things to different people.

    The original opinion piece suggests NZ should choose between China and USA instead of playing two ends off against an uncertain middle.

    My suggestion is that another option for NZ [together with Australia which shares the same fate] is to join the EU instead.

    We would still be playing off the same two ends but would have a bit more critical mass and be less of a cork bobbing around in the Pacific by ourselves.

    Independence has nothing to ultimately do with it. Survival does.

  13. Stuart Mackey on September 16th, 2010 at 18:14

    Independence has nothing to ultimately do with it. Survival does.

    Unfortunately your idea of survival is the exact opposite. Of course I prefer the vehicle of a revived Commonwealth to the EU, which I serious problems with with respect to democracy and its economic culture. Frankly, the Commonwealth, properly used, offers a future the EU does not and cannot.

  14. Jimbo on September 16th, 2010 at 20:22

    I’m not sure of the practical use to NZ’s economic future your Commonwealth block might be when one considers you’re seriously suggesting we have common economic, cultural and political cause with The Gambia, Mozambique, Sierra Leone, Seychelles, Jamaica, Antigua, Gibraltar and Guyana amongst others.

    I see some future for cricket matches in tax havens but little else apart from a vaguely distant connection with a prince who talks to his plants.

    I’m not sure if this is a grand future for NZ to consider unless one is an ardent royalist or closet colonialist.

    Give me the EU over this collection any day.

  15. Stuart Mackey on September 16th, 2010 at 20:46

    I’m not sure of the practical use to NZ’s economic future your Commonwealth block might be when one considers you’re seriously suggesting we have common economic, cultural and political cause with The Gambia, Mozambique, Sierra Leone, Seychelles, Jamaica, Antigua, Gibraltar and Guyana amongst others.

    As opposed to an increasingly authoritarian EU presiding over a continent in decline? Give me Commonweath free trade any day.

    I see some future for cricket matches in tax havens but little else apart from a vaguely distant connection with a prince who talks to his plants.

    Right, and we have something in common with an EU that would scupper our only real export earner? And you have singuly failed to show why the EU would let us in, quite apart from the fact that we are not in Europe.

    As for Charles, oh yeah thats most brave of you, attack a guy who cannot defend himself. I wonder what peccadilloes you have that I would find amusing? But hey why let that fact that you don’t actually know the man detract from having fun at someone else’s expense.

    I’m not sure if this is a grand future for NZ to consider unless one is an ardent royalist or closet colonialist.

    Sure, lets ignore two continent’s, Africa and India, that will be leading the worlds economy in decades to come because you have a gripe with a bit of history that effectively ended in 1945, thats a great way to make policy.

  16. Hugh on September 16th, 2010 at 20:48

    I can’t believe I am seeing a serious argument about whether or not New Zealand should join the EU or some theoretical Commonwealth free trade area.

    Aren’t you guys ignoring the bigger issue – whether we should colonise Mars or the Moon first? Since you’re clearly living in fantasyland.

  17. Stuart Mackey on September 16th, 2010 at 21:55

    Aren’t you guys ignoring the bigger issue – whether we should colonise Mars or the Moon first? Since you’re clearly living in fantasyland.

    Given that we are a member of one and cannot be in the other, I would suggest that one is possible and the other is not.
    But to answer your question directly, I don’t believe either of us has once said that either was likely, only that one of them is what we think would be a good idea, nothing more.

  18. Hugh on September 16th, 2010 at 22:28

    We may be a member of the Commonwealth but the Commonwealth we’re a member of in no way resembles the Commonwealth as it exists. There is nothing even close to a plan to even begin making the Commonwealth a free trade area. So arguing that it’d be a good idea to join a Commonwealth FTA because the current Commonwealth is so great is a non-starter because in order to gain an FTA, let alone anything more, the Commonwealth would have to change so much it would no longer resemble the current organisation. One reason the Commonwealth is so amicable is that it has no economic component, so nobody’s growth rate or employment is at stake during Commonwealth meetings and we can concentrate on pleasantries.

  19. Stuart Mackey on September 16th, 2010 at 23:37

    We may be a member of the Commonwealth but the Commonwealth we’re a member of in no way resembles the Commonwealth as it exists.

    Sorry???? the Commonwealth is an ex-British Empire Old Boys club, nothing more.

    There is nothing even close to a plan to even begin making the Commonwealth a free trade area. So arguing that it’d be a good idea to join a Commonwealth FTA because the current Commonwealth is so great is a non-starter because in order to gain an FTA, let alone anything more, the Commonwealth would have to change so much it would no longer resemble the current organisation. One reason the Commonwealth is so amicable is that it has no economic component, so nobody’s growth rate or employment is at stake during Commonwealth meetings and we can concentrate on pleasantries.

    I fail to see that the nature of the organisation need be as drastic as you make out, but I do think it does need to change, be more relevant or it will die out.
    But in any case it is academic, as you correctly say there is no plan to do such a deal, although the idea was raised by John Howard at a GHOGM some years ago.

  20. Hugh on September 17th, 2010 at 03:10

    Ugh, sorry. What I meant to say the Commonwealth we’re a member of in no way resembles the Commonwealth you’re advocating joining – as you say, right now, it’s a talk shop. To go from being a talk shop to being a Free Trade Area unifying such geographically and economically diverse economies as those of, say, India and New Zealand, would be an enormous step. It’s about as likely as the World Health Organisation suddenly becoming a Free Trade Area.

  21. Jimbo on September 17th, 2010 at 09:30

    I certainly can’t see any merit in the suggestion that NZ join some evolved Commonwealth group for a secure economic future that innoculates us against the looming China v USA tussle for control of the Pacific region.

    The EU already is in the region – New Caledonia, French Polynesia and Wallis et Futuna are part of the EU – and physical distance is no barrier to membership.

    In fact, one could technically argue that our closest physical trading partner [New Caledonia] is the EU.

    I wouldn’t write off the EU as a declining zone with a grey population. It has the ability to expand around the Mediterranean [such as Turkey] and generate an inflow of new workers and citizens to rejuvenate economically.

    It still can influence China and the USA in ways which ultimately benefit NZ [and Australia] and therefore, I see good reason to join the EU which, by the way, has never ruled out accepting applications from countries such as NZ.

    It’s just we’ve never asked to join.

  22. Hugh on September 17th, 2010 at 10:24

    Jimbo, none of the French overseas territories are part of the EU.

  23. Pablo on September 17th, 2010 at 10:47

    Interesting conversation. What about creating new axes with Brazil (my vote for most benign rising power), Russia (my vote for nastiest re-emerging power), India, South Africa, and moderate Arab states? A new bloc, in other words? It would require some hard yards by MFAT and the membership is yet to be determined, but it could serve as a new, but more weighty Non-Aligned Movement once things hit the fan.

    Just putting it out there given the tone of the comments….

  24. Jimbo on September 17th, 2010 at 13:34

    I stand corrected.

    Non ‘metropol’ France is made up of DOM [department outre-mer] and TOM [territoire outre-mer] and a DOM is a normal French department physically located overseas.

    In the Pacific, there is New Caledonia [DOM] whilst Wallis et Futuna are a TOM administered from Noumea and French Polynesia is also a TOM with ultimate administrative control also from Noumea.

    Ergo, New Caledonia is clearly part of the EU thus supporting my point that the EU is in the Pacific.

    Pablo extends the concept of finding ‘friends’ beyond the EU to a non-aligned movement, which collectively is currently as useful as the Commonwealth.

    It has bits of a BRIC [remove Russia and China] so is more of a BI with satellite economies – India + Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Nepal, Bhutan & Bangladesh and Brazil + Argentina, Chile and Uruguay.

    In my view, an ideal situation is for Australia and NZ to become part of the EU [let’s call it EU2], create a circle of associated Pacific states, choose the USA [+ Canada and Mexico] as preferred trade and defence partners and build strong secondary economic and cultural bridges with both Brazil and India + their satellites.

  25. Hugh on September 17th, 2010 at 17:15

    My understanding is that New Caledonia is currently constitutionally unique – it may technically be a Departement D’Outre Mer but it is not subject to a lot of the same provisions as other Departements, notably EU membership. I was wrong when I said French Overseas Territories are not part of the EU – some, such as those in the Caribbean, are. But New Caledonia isn’t – it is on the road towards independence, and EU membership is not part of that road.

    Having said all that it’s moot. Even if New Caledonia were part of the EU that doesn’t mean the EU is interested in expanding in the Pacific – any EU presence in areas outside Europe, such as the Caribbean, is really more of an accident of post colonial geography than a sign that the EU sees itself as open to membership applications from states in this area. To give you an example, Morocco was declined EU membership purely due to geography despite the fact that there are EU enclaves in Africa (again, France). No reason to assume that the Pacific is any different.

    In other words even if you were right about New Caledonia being part of the EU it no more opens the door for NZ membership than Guadelupe or Martinique opens the door for Cuban entry into the EU.

  26. Jimbo on September 17th, 2010 at 18:42

    NZ and Australia both meet the Copenhagen Criteria for EU membership.

    Individual issues for accession of both countries are not insurmountable.

    The Treaty of Maastricht geographical challenges could also be overcome through both precedent [New Caledonia again] and how ‘European’ is interpreted.

    Both NZ and Australia have predominant European populations, many of whom have dual nationality with EU states such as UK, Italy and Greece so the issue of interpreting ‘European’ also works in our favor.

    These seem to be a series of strong foundations from which to consider applying for accession to the EU.

    I’m not saying the EU is perfect, far from it, but I’m sure it would be a far better place if NZ and Australia were members and vice versa.

    I think we have a stronger starting point with the EU than cobbling together Commonwealth or Non Aligned Movement economic groups.

    I see no future in being economically, culturally or politically subjugated by China.

    Nor do I see the USA having the internal capability to move much beyond self-defence related interests in our region.

  27. Hugh on September 17th, 2010 at 18:45

    I presume you are interpreting the “European” of the Copenhagen Criteria to mean “having a predominantly European population” rather than “physically located in Europe”.

    Very few scholars of EU law agree with that interpretation.

    But if we take your interpretation, not only are NZ and Australia entitled to join, but also Canada, the USA, Argentina and Israel.

    So maybe we could join the EU along with Canada, the USA, Argentina, Australia and Israel! And then we could make Spongebob Squarepants the President and build an economy based on trading dilithium crystals.

  28. Jimbo on September 17th, 2010 at 18:58

    The more friends the merrier….I’d certainly add Brazil to that list as well.

    I’m not interested in scholars of EU law, they’re irrelevant.

    Compared to some EU presidents, Spongebob Squarepants would make an excellent choice, and why not trade in something neither the Chinese or Americans have?

  29. Hugh on September 17th, 2010 at 19:28

    I don’t think Brazil is predominantly ethnically European.

    Perhaps you’re one of these people who doesn’t care what academics think. (I’d wonder why you read Pablo’s blog, but that’s your call, I guess) I’ll point you, then, to the actual decison-makers, whose interpretation of the principle that “European” is a geographical term is even more consensual than the academic community’s is.

    While EU membership has been mentioned as a possibility for states such as Georgia, no mention of NZ (or Cuba or Australia or Israel or any of the other states above) as eventual EU members has ever eventuated. Given the EU’s use of potential membership as a strong incentive in negotiations, I’d ask you why in the Union’s decades long insistence no mention of any of membership for any of the ethnically European countries outside geographical Europe has ever been made?

  30. Jimbo on September 17th, 2010 at 20:54

    My point is that if it’s considered desirable by both NZ and the EU for accession then realpolitik will dictate ways are found and the academics can analyze it all until the cows come home but the real work is done.

    I’m interested in the subject of what future NZ can achieve in a multi-polar world.

    Brazil. European within any definition that proves necessary. Ethnicity is only one factor.

  31. Phil Sage (sagenz) on September 18th, 2010 at 08:10

    Interesting conversation. McCain wanted an association of democracies. It is truly a shame he is not president. That seems to me more multicultural and inclusive than the white Christian only view of the EU that seems to predominate in European capitals at present.

    The EU strikes me as a wealthy comfortable gated community that must deal with the servants who come to tend them but certainly does not want them living there.

    Imagine the good that New Zealand, Canada, Norway, Brazil, Poland, and extending to the likes of Ireland, Britain, Australia India and Turkey could do as a focused organisation. Small and middle ranking powers who have an interest in prosperous democratic open markets. Ensuring America and the EU do not over reach themselves and powerful enough to influence from without.

  32. Pablo on September 18th, 2010 at 11:29

    What I find interesting (other than the specific recommendations for alignment offered here) is that 1) this sort of discussion is not likely to be occuring in MFAT, which is exactly where it should be happening, in large part because 2) National shows no inclination towards or forsight in mapping out possible multinational balancing possibilities given the emerging great power rivalries of the next twenty years. In that sense National’s apporach to foreign policy is Republican-lite: priority is given to short term bilateral relations over long-term multilateral relations (which, admittedly, are more easily managed due to their contextual nature), even if the former are in conflict with one another (as per the subject of the post).

    Thus it appears that it will take a change in govt for a broader, longer-term perspective to be adopted by MFAT, and even that is not a certainty given the lock-in effect of treaty obligations incurred, assurances given or commitments made during National’s tenure in government.

  33. Sagenz on September 18th, 2010 at 19:18

    There is nobody in labour who gives any indication ov valuing Nz heritage as a force for good. That makes them like national and the people of new Zealand. There is little real prospect of any real debate about what is new Zealand for and what kind of global citizens we should be until the coming republic debate if it happens at all. New zealanders seem smugly happy with a long gentle relative decline to a foreign owned tourist theme park with lovely wine and cheese.

  34. Stuart Mackey on September 23rd, 2010 at 22:17

    Ugh, sorry. What I meant to say the Commonwealth we’re a member of in no way resembles the Commonwealth you’re advocating joining – as you say, right now, it’s a talk shop. To go from being a talk shop to being a Free Trade Area unifying such geographically and economically diverse economies as those of, say, India and New Zealand, would be an enormous step. It’s about as likely as the World Health Organisation suddenly becoming a Free Trade Area.

    I advocate making the existing Commonwealth a free trade association, I don’t pretend its something its not.
    NZ is in free trade negotiations with India already.

    40 years ago a good chunk of Asia was economically backward, yet we clamour for free trade deals with them now.
    Just because the Commonwealth is diverse, geographically and economically, and some of its nations are dirt poor, is not in itself a reason to ignore the idea, after all we trade with both Europe and Bangladesh.

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