Whether Winston Peters can credibly continue as New Zealand's Foreign Minister when his party opposes the free trade agreement with China depends largely on whether he and the rest of New Zealand First continue to bag the deal over coming months.
Judging from Peters' actions and comments yesterday, the latter is not going to happen.
While the NZ First caucus has decided to vote against pending legislation enabling the trade pact to come into operation, it had little option, given the party's long-established antipathy towards free trade agreements and its promotion of "economic nationalism".
However, while opposing the deal to satisfy his domestic political audience, Peters' language and tone was one of moderation yesterday as he tried to avoid embarrassing Labour while giving himself room to breathe as Foreign Minister.
The New Zealand-China free trade agreement is the first time that his separate roles of Foreign Minister and party leader have come into such obvious and abundant conflict.
It has begged the question of how a Foreign Minister can get away with not endorsing Government policy and still stay in the job.
Generally, Peters has got away with wearing only one hat at a time.
On this occasion, he has had to wear both.
That he managed to balance both and still retain some decorum was down to some careful semantics on his part.
He went some way to avoid compromising himself as Foreign Minister and Labour as the architects of the China deal by not slamming the free trade agreement out of hand. Instead, his declared reason for not backing the legislation is that the deal is "simply not good enough".
This might still be a slight on the Prime Minister, who has closely associated herself with the deal. But it is a slight she can no doubt live with, given she needs NZ First to be on board to keep her minority Government functioning.
She will also understand that NZ First had to be given some licence in this instance - and she can afford to do so as she can count on National's votes to pass the enabling legislation.
Peters argues that he has merely implemented the "agree to disagree" provision in his party's confidence and supply arrangement with Labour.
He also argues that while that arrangement obliges him to follow the official Government line when speaking on matters relating to his foreign affairs portfolio, it does not apply to trade policy.
But trade policy and foreign policy are so intertwined as to be inseparable - a point made by Helen Clark when she said the free trade agreement provided a platform for further engagement with China.
However, political convenience has seen both Labour and the Chinese turn a blind eye to Peters' not following the Government's line on the free trade agreement. That way no one ends up being the loser.
It will only become a problem if Peters launches a continuous and concerted campaign denigrating the agreement.
Having made his party's opposition clear yesterday - and with a parliamentary debate yet to come - he may have judged that sufficient to let the matter rest until much closer to the election.