The United Nation’s Security Council seat was viewed as the best showcase for New Zealand’s noble intentions. But within a few days of its tour of duty ending New Zealand found itself the fall-guy in two bitter feuds—the eternal Israel-Arab one and now the grudge one between the outgoing and incoming Presidents of the United States.
How did the tiny agrarian South Pacific nation with its international do-good mission find itself caught in these two bitter sets of cross-fires?
New Zealand’s presence on the United Nations Security Council was the culmination of a decades-long diplomatic strategy designed to underpin the nation’s ability to bring to bear common sense and good deeds where and when on the globe these were required.
Instead and at the 11th hour the nation’s participation in the Security Council drew forth hitherto unknown vituperation from the prime minister of a democracy, Israel-- the “act of war” comment.
Then, and more woundingly still, New Zealand found itself being distanced by the one democracy whose approval it values and in fact needs most of all – Australia.
The purpose of diplomacy is to avoid confrontation. We now examine the background to New Zealand’s increasingly curious role on the United Nations Security Council..................
The portents all looked favourable. The two year term would fit neatly into the conclusion of president Obama’s last term.
The President liked the scheme, and in practical terms even more significantly, so did his State Department, so recently led by Hillary Clinton.
New Zealand had put its shoulder to the wheel of the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement. In return Auckland would be chosen as the place to sign the mighty trade treaty itself.
So what could possibly go wrong? In a couple of words, the unanticipated.
The US media has always been close to the New Zealand Embassy. The Washington media was forecasting a seamless transition between the Obama one and an incoming Hillary Clinton one.
There were some lingering doubts about the likelihood of a third consecutive Democrat administration. A few cynics wondered about two Democrat pc presidents in a row.
Still, even if a Republican candidate did win the election, the transition was hardly likely to be disruptive. A distinct possibility in such an instance was the restoration of the Bush dynasty in the form of Jeb..
Again there would be no end of term friction, disruptions. Especially of the type to involve the Security Council. The Bushes and the Clinton - Obamas had long made up anyway.
The completion of New Zealand’s two year temporary term would take place at the very end of the year within just a few weeks of the end also of the final presidential term of Mr Obama.
Back home in New Zealand this happily coincided with the most suitably receptive time for institutional news, and what better news than about New Zealand’s distinguished stint at the top table of the United Nations?.
Few among the general public are aware of the distinction between the major-power permanent members of the Security Council and the countries which serve short tours of duty as temporary members.
Countries such as currently Angola, Malaysia, Senegal, Uruguay, the Ukraine, and of course New Zealand.
So in 2017, there was scheduled to be a nice start at the very beginning of an election year with smiling New Zealand diplomats and politicians being congratulated, and congratulating each other for all the good work they had been doing around the world and while at the highest level of United Nations, on the Security Council, no less.
The good news would have capped a long and in many ways remarkable association between New Zealand and United Nations.
Sir Leslie Munro, a founder of the National Party was president of the United Nations General Assembly, and also served three times as president of the Security Council itself.
Terence O’Brien, still an urbane presence on the Wellington diplomatic scene had similarly occupied high office.
Former New Zealand prime minister Helen Clark by this time was a familiar presence heading one of the United Nations key agencies and for a while even mentioned as secretary general, a post not wishing to leave such matter to chance, that she vigorously campaigned for.
And yet....and yet....
In Wellington and Washington New Zealand diplomats started to feel the chill as it became daily more evident that the transition between Mr Obama and the unanticipated Mr Trump was going to be anything but friendly.
They hunkered down when president-elect Donald Trump coolly announced that on taking office he would immediately trash the Trans Pacific trade deal signed in Auckland in 2016.
They held their tongues resisting the New Zealand impulse to speak up for the underdog when the incoming president spoke of his immigration plans.
In diplomacy though it is the unexpected that determines the outcome of even the most delicately thought-through plan of action.
The problem when it came was from President Obama. Not his replacement, Donald Trump.
The outgoing President Obama was by now showing signs of uncharacteristic ill-grace as his replacement was making it clear that he intended to sweep aside the cherished Obama legacy.
Mr Obama by now had had enough.
He emptied a bag of nails out of the back window of the presidential limousine in the form of the resolution calling for the end of Israeli urbanisation of its occupied territories.
This Mr Obama knew would get under the skin of a resolutely pro-Israel Donald Trump.
He was right.
New Zealand was now chosen as one of the Security Council nations to support it.
Which New Zealand did, incurring the instant incandescent wrath of Israeli premier Benjamin Netanyahu.
In the longer term it is safe to assume that it probably also jaundiced the view of an initially glad-handing to New Zealand Mr Trump himself
Australia the world’s 12th largest industrial nation now pointed out that this was not New Zealand’s fight. It would not be shoulder-to-shoulder with its trans Tasman cousin on the resolution.
Could the resolution have been filibustered, dragged over into 2017? By which time the New Zealand Security Council team would have been safely out of the Security Council and thus out of the cross-fire.
It couldn’t. The Obama people, sensing the ire of their departing chief, called in their Atlantic IOUs and ramrodded it through.
| From the MSCNewsWire reporters' desk | Saturday 31 December 2016 |
| MSCNewsWire - Wednesday 28 December 2016 | The absence in New Zealand of an effective political Jewish lobby was largely responsible for the South Seas nation being summoned to co-sponsor at the United Nations the resolution calling for the halt to building within Israel’s occupied territories.
Two sponsoring nations were islamic – Malaysia and Senegal.
The third, Venezuela, was a founding member of OPEC.
The political lobby vacuum meant that New Zealand could be the western, and better still, English speaking nation to sponsor the resolution –and do so without there being any danger of formal internal political repercussions.
The resolution gives all the appearance of having been engineered on an Atlantic axis between Britain and the United States.
It was then fronted by nations which were either islamic (Senegal and Malaysia) part of the Arab oil economy anyway (Venezuela) or were likely to encounter absolutely no internal political repercussions (New Zealand.)
It is also understood on this Atlantic axis that New Zealand has to step warily in regard to Arab nations.
New Zealand informed trade officials that it would be shipping live sheep to the region.
The government then had to deliver a complete about-face.
The current National government, under pressure from the Greens, had to revoke the live sheep export licences
This was not taken lying down. The New Zealand government was informed that among the Gulf states its exports would be boycotted.
New Zealand has still only partially soothed feelings in the region by establishing an extensive stock handling and processing depot in the region.
The freeze in diplomatic relations between Israel and New Zealand called by a livid Israeli premier Benjamin Netanyahu will take time to thaw.
In spite of a delicately arranged surface cordiality between the two tiny nations, recent decades have been characterised by an increasingly embedded suspicion at the New Zealand end of its small country counterpart Israel.
This chill can only become frostier if and when United States president elect Donald Trump follows through on his policy promise to approve the transfer of Israel’s capital from its current site at Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
So there will be relief in Wellington that New Zealand’s two year term on the Security Council finishes at the end of this year.
This means that the Pacific nation which in terms of population and socially-inclined political outlooks seemed once upon a time to be so compatible with Israel can sidestep becoming directly crunched in another great power game which offers so little in the way of tangible benefits.
| From the MSCNewsWire reporters' desk | Wednesday 28 December 2016 |
L’Affaire Tapie now engulfing Francis Fillon campaign
IMF managing director Christine Lagarde’s exit from the Paris court room with only the charge of “negligence” attached to her has served only to intensify the anger in France over the porosity between their country’s judiciary and it politicians, writes our European correspondent.
The gathering storm is of interest to New Zealand because of a widespread impression that former prime minister John Key is in line to succeed her as chief of the International Monetary Fund, an economic stabilising agency that had its origins in Bretton Woods.
The possibility initially arose when Mr Key was still serving as prime minister and Miss Lagarde’s five year tenure came up for renewal amid the re-convening of a high level investigation into what is known as the Tapie Affair.
In the event Miss Lagarde toughed it out and signed on at the IMF for another five years.
This seemed to close off the opportunity for Mr Key.
But with the presidential election looming in France the burner keeps getting turned up on the Tapie Affair.
The reason is that the episode was ignited during the tenure of the previous president Nicolas Sarkozy whose minister of finance was Miss Lagarde.
It was she who signed off on the pivot of the whole affair which was to submit the Tapie Affair to special external arbitration rather than run it through the standard judicial process.
The recent Paris trial revealed that her advisers had recommended that Miss Lagarde do exactly this—turn the matter over to the standard judicial process.
In the event the finance minister, Miss Lagarde, handed the matter over to an ad-hoc collection of arbitrators.
The upshot of this was that the external arbitrators now proceeded to award to the sometime politician-impresario-speculator Bernard Tapie considerably in excess of half a billion dollars of taxpayer money.
This was in compensation for a Barnard Tapie business deal that went wrong.
This was the famed Adidas deal.
It remains a deal for which most French taxpayers still cannot work out how in the first place they became involved in, let alone how they became liable for it.
In France the affair is often described as an “arnaque par l’etat contre l’etat,” a swindle by the state against the state.
An extraordinary insight during the recently-completed proceedings into the French politico-judicial relationship was that a big slice of this half billion dollar compensation was awarded directly to the Tapie family and tax free.
This it turned out was because of the stress that the Tapie family were considered to have endured during the family’s efforts to claim the compensation.
Even by Latin standards of the spoils system, this was considered a bit much
The unspoken inference hovering over the affair was to the effect that the appointed independent arbitrators in arriving at their generous compensation had somehow and personally been accessed during their deliberations.
By forces favourable to the litigant.
Back now to Mr Key.
He is the logical replacement to Miss Lagarde for a number of reasons.
There cannot be a third IMF managing director from France because the last two have figured so prominently in court proceedings.
There was Dominique Strauss-Kahn who was Miss Lagarde’s predecessor. He figured in a New York courtroom. Then, just days ago, and in Paris now, there was Miss Lagarde herself.
The tradition has always been that the head of the World Bank comes from the United States and that the International Monetary Fund chief comes from Europe.
The World Bank swerved away from this. It was felt that that the IMF would follow.
When it looked as if Miss Lagarde might have to stand down there was mooted an idea to recruit someone to fill the IMF role from a developing nation.
The problem is that developing nations are highly suspicious of the IMF and its motives. So a candidate from an emerging economy, should they be made available, is likely to be regarded as part of a wider conspiracy perpetrated by the United States.
Even so, it is the United States that has in effect the casting vote on the appointment of the IMF managing director.
President Obama is something of a soul brother with Mr Key and if public indignation were to mount to boiling point in France there is still time for Mr Key’s name to go forward.
The reason the Tapie Affair will stay on the burner is that front-runner to become the next president of France is Francis Fillon.
He was prime minister during the previous Sarkozy presidency.
It was during Mr Fillon’s watch as prime minister that the Tapie deal was so surprisingly routed through arbitration instead of the judicial process.
The endless Tapie Affair is now lapping around his presidential campaign.
More recently still there are signs that a president Donald Trump might be favourable to the appointment of the New Zealander to head what he regards as a chaotic and even dangerous agency, the IMF.
Mr Key (pictured above with Chrstine Lagarde) is said in Europe to be grateful to be out of the political epicentre to a large extent because of the way in which in the Westminster sphere such as New Zealand, a prime minister assumes a show business status in which every aspect of their life, private and public, becomes part of the national entertainment.
Curiously under the republican modus operandi in France this is forbidden by statute and the way in which media can cover the lives of elected official is drastically curtailed.
The belief therefore is that if Mr Key with his solid Wall Street and international political careers was to be called, that he would serve.
| From the MSCNewsWire reporters desk | saturday 24 december 2016 |
YANGON - Myanmar's economy is slowly emerging from the crippling effects of decades of military rule, where a poorly-managed resources industry dominated much of the country's trade. The Aung San Suu Kyi-led government is encouraging foreign and local investment in job-creating export industries, with a strong focus on manufacturing. Boosted by U.S. President Barack Obama's recent removal of executive sanctions on Myanmar, the country's garment industry is on the rise, and aims to be the nation's largest employer.
The NLD-led government hopes new factories can provide employment for hundreds of thousands, whose education and work opportunities were stunted under 50 years of military rule.
Exports have almost doubled in the last five years, to $1.1 billion for the 2015 financial year when, according to the United Nations' International Labor Organization (ILO), the sector employed 380,000 people, mostly women.
The government recently passed an investment law that allows tax breaks for investment in the industry, while the U.S. dropped longstanding sanctions in September that will give international firms greater confidence in dealing with Myanmar.
The Myanmar Garment Manufacturing Association estimates the industry will employ up to 1.5 million workers by 2024.
"So with all these interests, the will of the government side, and the lifting of the sanctions, and the private sector also, the garment sector also the will grow," said Khine Khine New, secretary general of the association.
However, many problems persist.
An inexperienced government has been slow on detailing policies that give businesses the predictability they need, said factory owner Sai Maung.
While his company has benefited from foreign help to meet international labor and production standards, many factories are still coming to grips with Myanmar's transition.
"Before we are closed, but now we are moving to a democratic country and the people have no experience at all, I mean with how to deal with the issues," said Maung.
Industrial relations are struggling to keep up with pace of growth, according to ILO deputy liaison officer Piyamai Pichaiwongse.
"Myanmar was never a country that was operated by the rule of law. So therefore, the law does not have supremacy in anything that they do. There is not the reference for things that they do in the past," she said.
The ILO is working with the government to rewrite labor laws.
In the meantime, strikes have increased since a minimum wage of just $2.75 a day was introduced last year. Unions complain of increased persecution of their members, workers have little understanding of their rights and employers are struggling with compliance.
With an industry on the rise, these relations hold the key to improving the living standards of hundreds of thousands of workers and their families.
Santa’s workshop is running full tilt at this hour but production estimates are behind where they hoped to be by this time.
Elf Bernard said that while the Merry Prankster did no lasting harm to the workshop he did set them behind a bit with his constant pranks over the past month. But elves are so happy that he has been caught it appears they are making up for lost time in fine fashion.
We still have a few days before Santa launches but I’m hearing rumors already that Santa’s workshop will be extending their production beyond launch time. That’s not unusual but it isn’t ideal.
Furniture group Steinhoff is set to acquire Africa’s largest retailer, Shoprite. What the story behind the firm that wants to be Africa’s next IKEA? Here’s a brief history of Steinhoff:
Bruno Steinhoff founded the company in Germany in 1963. He did so in order to source furniture from the communist-ruled eastern Europe to sell in western Europe.
When the Berlin Wall fell in 1989, Steinhoff grasped huge opportunities in the household goods industry and expanded to former East Germany, Poland, Hungary and the Ukraine.
Steinhoff Europe was created, and the firm invested in its production and distribution capacity.
Steinhoff Africa was formed in 1997 when the firm acquired an interest in furniture manufacturers Gommagomma Holdings.In 1998, Steinhoff was listed on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE). Steinhoff committed to sourcing and manufacturing products in low-cost locations and retailing them in developed markets.
In 1998, the Chairman of Steinhoff stated: “Logistics is a huge growth area for us with warehousing and distribution networks being key to the future”. Between 1998-2002, Steinhoff worked on “establishing its base”.
In 2000, it developed its manufacturing capacity in Poland. Steinhoff’s German production largely relocated to Poland and acquired numerous Polish factories.
The following year, Steinhoff acquired UK bedding manufacturers Relyon Group, Australian retailer Sprung Slumber and the Australian manufacturing facilities of Freedom Group.
In 2002, Steinhoff acquired high-end European brands Egoform and Dieter Knoll.
In 2005, the company looked to vertically integrating its pillars of business. It established itself in retail, in order to complement its presence in manufacturing, sourcing and logistics service. It acquired retail group Freedom in Australia and New Zealand, UK retail group Homestyle and Unitrans UK.
The firm bought Conforma, Europe’s second largest retailer of home furnishing, in 2011.
Steinhoff International moved its primary listing to the Frankfurt Stock Exchange in 2015. However, management remained in South Africa.
In 2016, Steinhoff took over UK discount retail chain Poundland in a £597 million deal and bought Mattress Firm for $3.8 billion.
Investment and analytics firm Vestact predicted that Retail Africa will have annual revenues of 200 billion rand (over 14 billion dollars).
India plans to take a longer period to eliminate tariff with China to give the domestic industry enough time to adjust to a trade deal with China.
New Delhi:India plans to offer tariff elimination on more than 70% traded goods with China over an extended period of time under the ongoing negotiations for a Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) agreement.
“One cannot go beyond 6% offer on either side of common concession. For example, if common concession is decided at 80% for all countries, then we cannot offer China tariff elimination of less than 74%,” a government official said, requesting anonymity.
The common concession of tariff lines is the minimum tariff elimination that a country has to offer under RCEP, which is yet to be finalized. India plans to take a longer period to eliminate tariff with China, say up to 30 years, to give the worried domestic industry enough time to adjust to a trade deal with China.
Steel industry is particularly worried as China has been dumping iron and steel products in India at a much lower price than the domestic industry can supply at. India has often resorted to anti-dumping measures to protect domestic industry from the onslaught of cheap imports from China.
“Other countries want a shorter phasing out period of tariffs; we want a longer phasing out period. Others say what you give to one country, you have to give to everybody, which we don’t agree to,” the official said, pointing at the current level of discussions at RCEP among member countries.
Karl Kolmsee explains how the small hydrokinetic turbines developed by his company Smart Hydro Power can provide a reliable source of electricity to remote rural communities. Smart Hydro Power's floating turbines
A hydrokinetic turbine works like a wind turbine underwater – the force of the current in a river or canal turns a rotor, which in turn spins a generator to create electricity.
Smart Hydro Power designs and manufactures these turbines to provide a renewable source of electricity to inaccessible rural locations.
According to a report in the Australian Financial Review (AFR), well-known Australian businessman Andrew Liveris has been recruited by Donald Trump to help bring back American manufacturing jobs.
The chief executive of US multinational giant Dow Chemical, Liveris was appointed chair of the President-elect’s American Manufacturing Council.
Liveris has led the manufacturing giant Dow for the past 12 years in Michigan, a so-called “rust belt” state where working class voters helped propel Trump to his presidential election win last month, noted the AFR.
Liveris is also a close acquaintance of Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and is a member of the Turnbull government’s Industry Growth Centres Advisory Committee.
He was described by Donald Trump as “one of the most respected businessmen in the world”, according to the AFR.
Darwin-born Liveris has gone on record to claim that US economic growth could rise to 4 per cent per year.
“If the US economy can hit 4 per cent growth, that’s not only good for America, it’s good for the world,” Liveris told the AFR.
The son of Greek migrants, 62-year old Liveris is currently finalising a $US130 billion merger and of Dow and DuPont, a deal that is expected to be executed early next year if European authorities approve it.
SEATTLE (AP) - A New Zealand man charged with trying to buy devices used on airplanes, spacecraft and missiles in the U.S. so he could sell them to China faces a federal trial.
William Ali is accused of attempting to violate the Arms Export Control Act. The device, called an accelerometer, is designed to help with aircraft navigation.
Ali was arrested at a Seattle hotel in April after he met with an undercover Homeland Security agent to purchase the devices before taking them to China. Ali’s lawyer says this is a case of entrapment. He says the federal agent induced Ali to come to the U.S. to commit a crime.
Opening statements were scheduled for Monday afternoon after a jury is selected. His trial is in U.S. District Court is expected to run three days.