Opinion

Expert view: NZ political parties stay true to form on security issues

An Aegis-equipped destroyer docked at Takamatsu port, Kagawa Prefecture, Japan. Photo: 123RF

On New Zealand's role in Asia

The responses from the parties are mostly predictable motherhood statements, but it is noticeable that some of the parties obviously did not care to invest much in a specific statement on the subject. I see the Greens’ statement on identifying areas of common interest and promoting as "cultural and people-to-people linkages to enhance our mutual understanding" an important foundation for enhanced engagement. National lists specific arenas where it wants New Zealand to engage with the region, harnessing regional engagement to its Business Growth Agenda goals. Put the two together and you might have a sustainable foundation for co-operation.

On trade agreements

Most of the parties are more forthcoming with specific goals and proposals on the trade agenda. Māori Party, Labour and the Greens all propose some substantial changes to current trade agreements, particularly around reserving regulatory autonomy. With the possible exception of New Zealand First, they are all pro-trade and recognise the value of “rules-based trade” (Greens). The carve-outs they are calling for reflect concerns that resonate widely among most of our trading partners, but they include some significant changes that would of course represent negotiating challenges. National is promoting more of the current trade agenda that it has advanced over the past nine years – by implication, nothing needs to change.

On China’s Belt and Road Initiative

Here the Māori Party looks to have given the initiative the most thought, which suggests high interest given the limited resources of a small party. The others all sound pretty neutral or reserved on the subject, apart from New Zealand First which strikes the most negative tone.

On security

The parties are all sounding true to form on this: The Greens emphasising human security concerns around refugees and migration, while Labour and National are singing from the standard foreign policy community playbook (serious, but really boring). Māori Party gets the beauty contest award (world peace!) and New Zealand First  sounds the alarm on North Korea. I am not sure what exactly it means when it says that the "nature of North Korea’s brinkmanship has only one option – the use of nuclear weaponry" – but we get the overall threatening picture.

 

Views expressed in this article are personal to the author. Read the full election feature on Asia foreign policy here.

– Asia Media Centre