WikiLeaks cable: US Ambassador's final call on NZ's Foreign Minister

This is one of the diplomatic cables about New Zealand held by Wikileaks.

19 August, 2005

This record is a partial extract of the original cable.
The full text of the original cable is not available

Classified By: Ambassador Charles J. Swindells, for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d)

1. (C) Summary: During his final meeting with Foreign
Minister Goff on August 18, Ambassador Swindells reiterated
his call for both countries to engage in a comprehensive
dialogue on the bilateral relationship. He and Goff agreed
that Embassy Wellington should begin quiet work with NZ
counterparts as soon as appropriate to explore a possible
framework for talks. Goff warned that the United States
should not have "unrealistic expectations" of a broad
dialogue, but unlike in the past he stopped short of telling
the Ambassador that the nuclear ban could not be discussed.
End Summary.

2. (C) The Ambassador's exchange with Minister Goff was
cordial, with the Minister especially emphasizing the
tremendous contributions the Ambassador had made to the
Fulbright Program.

The two also discussed a variety of
regional concerns, particularly China. Minister Goff said
that Free Trade Agreement (FTA) talks with China were moving
ahead, with four rounds completed so far. But Goff
characterized the PRC as looking for a quick result and GNZ
more interested in quality. The fact that NZ was "first up"
in FTA talks put more pressure on both sides, he added. The
Ambassador said that on the economic side he was optimistic
about China, as laws are more transparent and foreign
companies are making profits there at last. Goff agreed, but
noted that maintaining a dialogue with China was difficult,
given human rights concerns. He said it was ironic that the
PRC was so critical of Japanese textbook accounts of WWII,
given China's own penchant for censorship.

3. (C) Moving the conversation to the bilateral
relationship, FM Goff said he wanted to be sure Ambassador
had seen the Prime Minister's VJ Day speech. She had talked
about how strongly she felt about U.S. friendship and
cooperation in the War, Goff said, and it was she herself who
included this reference. (FYI: The PM's speech noted, "New
Zealand warmly respects, still, the strengths of the United
States, that mighty country beside which we fought and with
which, sixty years ago, we celebrated victory.") Goff said
he thought his own recent speech to the "Gateway to America"
had also gone well, as it had highlighted many positive
statistics about the US-NZ bilateral relationship.

4. (C) Regarding the Pacific Security Initiative (PSI), Goff
told the Ambassador that he thought NZ Academic Peter Cozens
remarks to the press were "overgilding" the significance of
the U.S. decision to allow joint military exercises. That
being said, it was Secretary Powell who had asked Goff that
New Zealand participate in the initiative, and the Prime
Minister had agreed. New Zealand had never thought this
would create a problem for the United States, but GNZ is not
trying to sell the joint exercises as a breakthrough.
(Comment: While initially this was the case (and the
Government was doubtless not eager to be seen as very close
to the United States military in the run-up to elections)
Goff has since told the press he hoped the U.S. would issue
more waivers in the future since the two countries are
fighting together in Afghanistan against terrorism. End

5. (C) Goff also reminded the Ambassador of New Zealand's
continued interest in a Free Trade Agreement with the United
States before Trade Promotion Authority runs out. He said
hoped the two sides could discuss this later in the year.
The Ambassador said that in his July 4 speech he had called
for a broad dialogue about the relationship. It should be
about setting up a framework to discuss a myriad of topics,
he said. If both sides find things that can't be changed, he
said, we can move on from there. The Ambassador said he did
not like how things were not moving forward. Given FM Goff's
and PM Clark's skills it's remarkable these talks are not
taking place.

6. (C) Goff agreed that he was keen for an open and
transparent dialogue, but worried that it would create
expectations on the U.S. side that New Zealand could not
deliver on. That's what had happened with the Buchanan and
the Somers report, he said. In frankness, New Zealanders'
view the "non-nuclear" policy as representative of the
country's being "clean and green" and as the country's own
decision. The harder they are pushed on the issue, the more
resistant they would be. The Ambassador countered that the
Government should not worry about this. If as a result of a
dialogue New Zealand understands the policy's ramifications
for the United States, GNZ might be able to find a way to
address these concerns. The Ambassador said that he and
other US officials understand New Zealand's independence.
But government-to-government talks freshen relationships so
that they move forward. If nothing changes, we can still
continue to cooperate as we have. Goff said he would be
happy to discuss the matter with Secretary Rice. The
Ambassador said a lower-level discussion was needed to set up
the parameters of a possible dialogue and then raise it up to
more senior levels when and as appropriate. He suggested
that NZ officials discuss this with DCM Burnett and others at
Embassy Wellington. Goff agreed, and said that he would be
happy to meet with the DCM.

7. (C) The Ambassador and FM Goff met with a group of
journalists immediately following the meeting. The
Ambassador deflected the journalists' repeated questions
about his views on Labour's use of anti-American messages in
the campaign, noting that in an election emotions run high.
The journalists aggressively asked FM Goff whether Labour's
tactics would tarnish US-NZ relations. The attacks are aimed
at National Party leader Brash, Goff said, and not President
Bush. The Ambassador said that he hoped for a broad dialogue
with New Zealand, regardless of which Party is elected. Goff
said that GNZ was keen on having a transparent dialogue on
all issues that would not "move towards adopting a policy
that New Zealanders are not in favor of." He also said that
he believed New Zealanders "are generally in favor of a very
close and productive relationship with the United States. Of
course we want to build on that."

8. (C) Comment: While we would not expect the Government to
scrap NZ's nuclear ban any time soon, Goff clearly eschewed
any direct reference to NZ's nuclear legislation (as opposed
to policy) in his comments to the press. Coupled with Goff's
more open approach to the Ambassador's suggestion during
their meeting, it seems that Labour is trying to carve out
wiggle room to discuss with us after elections the impact of
the nuclear policy on U.S. interests in the region. The
Ambassador's public call for talks with the Government
regardless of who wins September's elections will also enable
us to deflect accusations of having a cabal with National
should the opposition win. End Comment.


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