Labour Leader Andrew Little last night got a chance to put his party’s foreign affairs policy to an audience packed with diplomats and academics but instead managed to largely avoid discussing the big international issues.
It was only when the Japanese Ambassador, Toshihisa Takata’ asked about North Korea that Little moved into the here and now.
“We are depending on the super powers with whom we have relationships, particularly China, to use their influence to moderate North Korea’s actions,” he said.
Takata also asked about the TPP which Little explained Labour would not sign in its new TPP11 form unless sections dealing with Investor-State Disputes Procedures and allowing foreign companies to lobby the New Zealand Parliament were changed.
Little did not mention Labour’s other demand that a ban on land sales to foreigners be included but Foreign Affairs spokesman, David Parker, said later that the requirement still stood.
“The text of that agreement (the TPP) has clauses in it which threaten and compromise the democratic and sovereign rights of New Zealanders,” he said.
Takata was unlikely to be impressed with either answer.
Japanese diplomats in Wellington have made it clear that Japan sees the North Korea situation as one which requires the continued presence of the USA in East Asia and it is keen to see the TPP11 come to fruition.
But otherwise, Little’s comments on foreign policy were mostly consistent with current foreign policy.
Labour supported continued members of the Five Eyes intelligence group and on Israel supported the two-state solution, he said.
“Any threat to Israel must be opposed by the international community.
“Israel has a right to defend and protect itself.”
Consistent with New Zealand’s support for the UN Security Council resolution on the Middle East conflict last December Little also said the Palestinian state had the same right to exist as Israel.
“And that right to exist means it can’t have its borders effectively shrunk year after year by housing encroachments.”
But what was missing from his speech were any specific references (beyond immigration) to the Pacific, to Australia or to East Asia.
Instead, he talked about the dangers of globalisation because of the way it had destabilised political systems in the northern hemisphere.
“Much of the popular disillusionment that we are seeing is aimed at the failed promise of 21st-century globalisation,” he said.
He said though globalisation was meant to allow countries to focus on their comparative advantage it had led to a growing gap between the rich and the poor.
“Too many people have missed out on the gains.”
One obvious example of Labour’s scepticism about globalisation is its immigration policy which aims to cut 20 – 30,000 migrants a year.
But Little said Labour still supported immigration.
“When new immigrants come here they don ‘t just bring the skills that we badly need for the future of our country and its economy; they enrich our country culturally, and they make New Zealand a better place.”“
At the National Party conference over the weekend, Prime Minister Bill English, made it clear National wants to campaign about its embrace of the world through trade agreements.
He talked about “a New Zealand which is open to trade, open to investment, happy to have Kiwis stay home and embraces the challenges of growth.”
Little’s rejection of globalisation will contrast with that view and may form a central debate during the election campaign.