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WikiLeaks cable: GNZ should improve U.S. ties, says former NZ ambassador

Photo / Mark Mitchell
Photo / Mark Mitchell

September 11, 2006
GNZ should improve U.S. ties, says former NZ ambassador

date:2006-09-11T05:23:00
source:Embassy Wellington
origin:06WELLINGTON717
destination:VZCZCXYZ0000 RR RUEHWEB DE RUEHWL #0717/01 2540523 ZNY
CCCCC ZZH R 110523Z SEP 06 FM AMEMBASSY WELLINGTON TO RUEHC/SECSTATE
WASHDC 3254 INFO RUEHBY/AMEMBASSY CANBERRA 4533 RHEHAAA/NATIONAL
SECURITY COUNCIL WASHDC RUEKJCS/OSD WASHINGTON DC RHHMUNA/CDR USPACOM
HONOLULU HI RHHJJAA/JICPAC HONOLULU HI
classification:CONFIDENTIAL
reference:
?C O N F I D E N T I A L WELLINGTON 000717

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

STATE FOR D (FRITZ), EAP/FO, AND EAP/ANP
NSC FOR VICTOR CHA
SECDEF FOR OSD/...
?C O N F I D E N T I A L WELLINGTON 000717

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

STATE FOR D (FRITZ), EAP/FO, AND EAP/ANP
NSC FOR VICTOR CHA
SECDEF FOR OSD/ISD LIZ PHU
PACOM FOR J01E/J2/J233/J5/SJFHQ

E.O. 12958: DECL: 09/08/2016
TAGS: PREL, PGOV, NZ
SUBJECT: GNZ SHOULD IMPROVE U.S. TIES, SAYS FORMER NZ
AMBASSADOR

Classified By: Deputy Chief of Mission David J. Keegan,
for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d)

Summary
--------

1. (C) New Zealand's former Ambassador to the United States,
John Wood, told an inflential local international affairs
organization that New Zealand should take the initiative to
improve US-NZ ties. Wood cited GNZ officials' anti-US
election campaign rhetoric as a low point in the
relationship. He said New Zealand's lack of a FTA with the
United States has already hurt US corporate interest here.
Wood also vigorously denied former PM Lange's claims that
Wood had acted without GNZ instruction when he tried to
accomodate the U.S.S. Buchanan's visit to New Zealand after
the country established its anti-nuclear policy. While our
foreign affairs contacts appreciate Woods' effort to boost
US-NZ ties, many wonder why he did not criticize his
government publicly before leaving his post in Washington for
retirement early this year. Others say Wood oversold to PM
Clark his ability to bring home a US-NZ Free Trade Agreement
and failed to alert GNZ to Washington's continued concerns
over New Zealand's anti-nuclear legislation and other issues.
End Summary.

Don't change the ban, change the attitude
-----------------------------------------

2. (SBU) Wood was a guest of the New Zealand Institute of
International Affairs on September 4 and spoke to an audience
largely made up of New Zealanders, including former and
current diplomats, academics, and journalists. Wood started
his off-the-record speech, the first since returning from
Washington, by announcing that he does not advocate a change
in New Zealand's anti-nuclear policy. But he noted that while
the present state of the US-NZ bilateral relationship is
acceptable it does not fully serve New Zealand's interests
and as a small country it was up to New Zealand to improve
things. He also said New Zealand must accept the reality that
due to competing foreign policy demands, the United States
will likely have little time or attention for New Zealand.
Wood indicated the current NZ government lacks the needed
political leadership to reach out to the United States. The
use of anti-American rhetoric in the last general election
(September 2005) was a low point in GNZ insensitivity to U.S.
perceptions, according to Wood. He said both governments
need to be mindful of tonality, express policy differences
clearly and frankly, and be measured in their public
statements.

3. (SBU) Wood hinted that mediocre relations were behind NZ's
failure to get an FTA with the U.S. even though other
countries ahead in the queue were "less qualified" than New
Zealand. He said lack of an FTA has already caused a decline
in US corporate interest in New Zealand. Expressing optimism
that things could get better, Wood cited as positive
indicators for change former Ambassador Swindells' July 2005
speech calling for a re-look at the relationship and
Ambassador McCormick's comments about the importance of US-NZ
economic cooperation.

Wood slams Lange's Take on the US-NZ Rift
-----------------------------------------

4. (SBU) Before his death, (former) Prime Minister Lange had
publicly criticized Wood for his role in the US-NZ schism
over the nuclear ban while serving as DCM in Washington.
Lange claimed that Wood and other NZ bureaucrats had on their
own initiative tried to negotiate an understanding that would
have allowed the U.S.S. Buchanan to visit New Zealand. Wood
told his audience he had in reality followed the PM's and
Foreign Minister's direct instructions. He also spoke of his
damage control work after the rift, which ultimately
succeeded in large part due to the goodwill of US
counterparts. He said President Clinton's efforts in 1993 to
restore dialogue and Prime Minister Jim Bolger's visit to
Washington in 1995 greatly helped to improve ties. Wood also
claimed that there will be a good deal of published material
that will refute David Lange's version of events surrounding
the ANZUS rift. (Note. Wood was probably referring to a book
by Kiwi historian Malcolm Templeton on the US-NZ split, due
to be released next month. End Note.)


5. (C) Comment: Wood's speech, while delivered under Chatham
House rules, will have an impact on an influential audience.
It follows an editorial he wrote in late July calling for
strengthening of US-NZ ties. During his retirement outbrief
at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) earlier
this year, Wood also reportedly lambasted senior MFAT
officials for their frequent public negative statements about
the United States, leading MFAT's CEO to order staff to be
more cooperative with Embassy officers. Wood also used at
least one farewell reception to slam the Labour government
over its anti-American rhetoric during the 2005 general
election campaign, noting the remarks had made his job as
Ambassador significantly tougher. While our foreign affairs
contacts are glad he's speaking out now, more than one have
questioned why Wood did not publicly criticize Labour before
leaving Washington. Others say Wood deserves part of the
blame for sub-optimal Washington ties, since as Ambassador he
overplayed to PM Clark the likelihood of a US-NZ FTA and
underplayed USG displeasure over Labour's campaign antics and
continued concerns over NZ's anti-nuclear policy. End
Summary.
McCormick

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