It's the right time for our key political leaders to take a lesson from the Black Caps compelling performance in the ICC Cricket World Cup and focus on the big international game – not simply the usual bilateral niggles when they head offshore.
China. North Korea. Iran. Major topics that should be on the agenda for both Jacinda Ardern and Winston Peters in their offshore forays to Australia and the United States this week.
It is a critical and quite worrying time in global affairs.
The Prime Minister leaves tomorrow for talks with Australia PM Scott Morrison in Melbourne. Her deputy and Foreign Affairs Minister is already in Washington DC and delivered a major speech to the prestigious Centre for Strategic and International Studies on 'Enhancing Pacific Partnerships - the importance of the Pacific for New Zealand and US foreign policy' overnight.
Internationally, the Chinese economy is markedly slowing. Manufacturers – not just from the US but other countries like South Korea – are shifting production from China due to political risks, tariffs and losing market shares. In Europe, concern is high that the US and Iran may go to war as a result of an unfortunate 'misstep'. Denuclearisation of North Korea remains an issue – irrespective of Donald Trump's meeting with Kim Jong Un.
This will inevitably spill over to affect the New Zealand economy if international stability cannot be assured.
Peters' US programme suggests a strong strategic focus. Not simply the bilateral free trade deal (FTA) which surprised trade watchers when he obtained a commitment from US Vice-President Mike Pence last December to focus on the importance of the United States and New Zealand working closely together to "achieve a breakthrough" on improving bilateral trade. Peters directed the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) to explore the possibility of an FTA on his return to Wellington.
This quest is strongly supported by US Ambassador Scott Brown who is also in DC this week. Brown has been angling for a meeting with the US president to push the case for a bilateral FTA, saying Trump is the one who will ultimately make the call whether to proceed with New Zealand.
The Trump persona hangs over both Peters' and Ardern's visits.
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Peters arrived in Washington overnight to be greeted by news that Ardern had "completely and utterly" disagreed with Trump over his call to four elected non-white Congresswomen to "go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came."
For a values-based Prime Minister who values diversity, Trump's open disparagement was a step too far.
The Prime Minister spoke her mind and the US heavy hitters Peters meeting this week will just have to suck it up.
But it is somewhat ironic, given the controversy over Peters' December 2018 visit when he ruffled feathers as he was seen to be inviting the US to counter Chinese influence in the Pacific.
MFAT has assigned Deputy Secretary Ben King to accompany him this time.
Irrespective the December speech was a success in the US and paved the way for the major meetings Peters will hold at the White House and elsewhere later this week (overnight Wednesday NZT).
On his dance card is a meeting with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo at the State Department. And at the White House he will meet National Security Advisor John Bolton and the Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats. He will also meet the Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt.
Prior to these meetings with key players in the Trump Administration, Peters was to meet (overnight NZT) with the chair of the Senate Foreign Relations subcommittee on East Asia, the Pacific and International Cyber Security policy Senator Cory Gardner (Republican) and Senator Ed Markey (Democrat)
Peters has considerable cachet in Washington. He has openly advocated for the US to step up its presence in the Pacific ('follow NZ's lead' he jests). He has also notched considerable success persuading other 'partners' like the EU, the UK and Japan to look more closely at what's happening in the blue water states and invest accordingly.
In 2007 – at the request of former US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice – Peters went to Pyongyang as an envoy when the six-party talks reached a stalemate. It is notable that last month Gardner and Markey sponsored a bipartisan bill to require global economic and political pressure to support diplomatic denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula.
For Ardern's part her key meeting is with Morrison on Friday. While this is not a formal bilateral visit it really needs to be much more than a cup of tea and a chat.
Morrison and Trump hit it off at the recent G20 meeting. The US President openly admires winners (as Morrison is). "Australia and the United States see the world through the same eyes," Morrison said on the deck of the USS Ronald Reagan during the Talisman Sabre exercises involving Australia, New Zealand, the US, the UK, Canada and Japan.
"Or, as President Reagan put it, 'We both recognise the responsibility of freedom and are prepared to shoulder it squarely'," Morrison said then.
As Peters put it in his statement, "the United States is a close friend of New Zealand. Our countries share a strategic partnership based on our strong security relationship, close economic links and long standing commitment to democracy."
The readout from both politicians' visits will indicate just how far New Zealand is prepared to up its game - or not. As the Black Caps showed there is no reason to keep on banging on about how NZ punches above its weight - we have weight and should use it.