Q+A: SHANE TAURIMA INTERVIEWS MIKE MOORE AND MIKE GREEN
SHANE While it may not mean as much as it once did, the US president is still leader of the free world and so has a huge impact on the rest of us, New Zealand included. So let's discuss that. Former prime minister Mike Moore needs no introduction. Good morning. And with him is Mike Green, senior vice-president for Asia at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. Welcome. Mike Moore, break this down for us. What does all this mean for us back at home, for New Zealand?
MIKE MOORE, Ambassador to the US Well, we want a global economy that's growing. We want to see a strong America, as we want to see a strong Europe and a strong and stable China. And America's still the strongest economy in the world and will be for the next 50 years - at least, at least - and so it means a lot to us. The administration has announced a rebalancing into the Pacific. I think a Romney administration would have continued that, because most of the world's growth will be in the Asia-Pacific, even more if you include India. And this has been good for us. And it's real; it's not just words. The South Pacific Forum - in the past you had four or five young American interns turns up. At the last two Pacific Forums, there have been 50 Americans, including the Secretary of State in Rarotonga. And this is a real effort the US is making, and we're doing all sorts of things - aid and maritime surveillance. And all those American islands - Marshalls, Guam and Palau - they are now getting to be stronger and part of the Pacific Forum.
SHANE So when you say it's important for us back at home because of the economy, there's been a lot of talk this morning about the fiscal cliff. There's been a lot of talk about economic woes that the country faces. How do we make sense of that?
MOORE Well, I wouldn't try. America will get through this. This is not the greatest challenge America has. They will work it through. And even the modest growth rates America's got now that people are critical of, that beats the pants off Europe; Japan, which is flat. And even in America that's growing at this modest rate, I think the American economy will take off, frankly. They'll get over this fiscal issue. It won't be pretty, but they'll get over it. 17 of the top 20 universities, 80% of the Nobel Prize winners, 40% of the world's expenditure on science and innovation in this country. The energy costs are stunning. In the next couple of years, they'll produce more oil than Saudi Arabia. In the next couple of years, the unit price of energy input to industrial product will collapse. It'll be the cheapest of the-
SHANE So quite a few things there. Mike Green, let's bring you in. What are your thoughts? Why does this matter back in New Zealand?
MIKE GREEN, Center for Strategic and International Studies Well, in some ways it doesn't, because I think there's a lot more bipartisan support for the pivot. The name "pivot" was controversial - if you pivot one way, you can pivot another way. But the concept of focusing on Asia has strong bipartisan support. Had Romney won, that would not have changed at all. A majority of Americans for the last two years in polls have said, for the first time ever, Asia's our most important region. So that doesn't change. I think the continuity's good in a way, because there's no timeout in terms of US-New Zealand relations. The administration can get right on to the next thing.
SHANE Is it better because we're talking about a second-term president...
GREEN It's a little easier because-
SHANE ...who doesn't have to rely on re-election?
GREEN In a way, the Obama administration and US-New Zealand relations did some of the big things - the Wellington Declaration and the Washington Declaration and so forth. And so I think in a second term, it's going to be about implementing and building on that. Had Romney won - and in full disclosure, I was helping his team on Asia things - had Romney won, they would have picked up the ball right where it was. The reason we couldn't do this in Clinton-Bush frankly was the nuclear issue, and we were trying to get a nuclear-powered carrier into Japan. We had to. And so the nuclear issue was complicated by that. The other factor frankly is in the game we're in now in Asia, it's not just about military things. It's about trade, it's about rule-making, it's about regional institutions. And New Zealand, for a country of four and a half million people, is a big player in that.
SHANE You talk about trade. Where does all this leave the trade deal with New Zealand?
GREEN Well, you know, one of the weak points, I think, in the so-called pivot or rebalancing was that the Obama administration was a little bit low-key about trade. Their trade union base made it hard for them to push for trade-promotion authority, which is required under our constitution, because our congress approves trade deals. So trade-promotion authority is a law that lets the president have-
SHANE Could that change over the next four years?
GREEN I think it will change. I think the last four years - first of all, I don't think President Obama had thought much about trade as a senator. He realised how important it was. He moved forward on big trade agreements like TPP, started by Bush. Then the election came and he stopped. Why? Because swing states - Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania - you need the union. I mean, you heard earlier that the big success for the Obama side was getting out their base, getting out their voters. They need unions for that. So that is not an issue any more, so I think they can move more smartly on TPP and will.
SHANE TPP, very briefly, though - do you think it will be signed in the next four years?
GREEN Yes, I'm very confident of that. I don't think it'll be finished this year, which is the goal, because I think Japan will start to come in and it will be worth accommodating Japan. It's a huge economy. And I think countries like Vietnam and so forth are going to have some political difficulties. But in the next four years? Yes. I think the President knows - and there's bipartisan appreciation of this - that this is in many ways the meat that would make the pivot or the rebalance-
SHANE What about the meat for New Zealand, Mike Moore? Can we expect a trade deal in this term?
MOORE Yes. Yes, we can. But this is not a bilateral deal, New Zealand and America. This is a regional deal. And the New Zealand media keeps saying "the US-New Zealand deal". It is a matter of substance now - Japan, Malaysia, Singapore, Brunei, Australia, Peru, Chile, Mexico, US, Canada.
SHANE What does that mean? Does that mean we have to wait for them to sign up to a deal first?
MOORE Yes, yes, and there's got to be something on the table for everyone. In a couple of weeks, 500 negotiators will descend on Auckland, and this will be the next round of our negotiations. The President has been forward-leaning. He's used the word "comprehensive". We're saying no exemptions. This is not easy for anyone. There is certain sensitive products that America has that America has to face - issues like sugar. That's not important to us, but it is to our friends in Australia. And we all have to work this through. And we're hopeful that we can tie the negotiation up by the end of next year, in terms of the APEC meeting, and then it'll be another year or so to get it through Congress. But the Congress has been supportive of trade deals. They have done Colombia. They have done Panama. They have done Korea. And this is a good for the American economy.
SHANE And will this one go through too?
MOORE I believe, as long as it's seen to be balanced- As our Parliament has problems, too. As long as in American Congress, people can say, "Listen, we've got something on intellectual property here. We've got something on investment. That means we have to do something in ag or some areas." You know, America is the world's biggest agriculture exporter. She's the biggest-
SHANE What about Pharmac, Mike Moore? Is that safe?
MOORE Well, we have our red lines. Our government has said that the idea of us centrally purchasing offers for our public health system is going to be preserved. Now, you might do some transparency or signal some stuff, but the core concept of a publicly centralised single purchaser of pharmaceuticals in New Zealand is a red line for New Zealand - as it is for Canada, as it is for Australia, and both those countries have done deals with America.
SHANE Mike Green, Leon Panetta was on this programme a few months ago, and he said that the US would do whatever it could to get closer to New Zealand. Is it fair to say that New Zealand is important to the US?
GREEN Look, what we're finding in Asia is a) we have to play the game of maintaining prosperity and stability through the ASEAN Regional Forum, through the East Asia Summit, through APEC. We're a big power, but these are forums where middle powers, smaller powers with good ideas can be very influential, and New Zealand can do that. It's important. We're finding that, you know, as China's expanding, the stability of states in the maritime region - big countries like the Philippines, but smaller states, the Solomons and so forth - that that matters, that we don't want failing states. We want a stable region so nobody's tempted to think there can be expansion or competition. New Zealand plays in all of these in ways that matter more now than 10 years ago or 20 years ago. So I frankly think, no matter who had won, US-New Zealand relations are going to be a growth business. And, you know, I've met senior officials and senior military officials in New Zealand, and there's going to be a lot of, I think, expectations and a lot of challenges, frankly, for a New Zealand government to be playing with us, because we have a huge government and a huge military and a huge aid system on all of these different issues. But I think it's a good thing.
SHANE Briefly, Mike Moore, you tweeted just after the election result came out. Let me read it out. "Even with the status quo - lots of change within the US cabinet. New Zealand embassy has a strategy and objectives. Game on!" End of quote. What is the strategy and what are the goals?
MOORE Well, what happens - it is natural. We will have within six months a new Secretary of State, new Secretary of Agriculture, probably new Homeland Security. Within a shorter time, maybe Defence. So we have to build up a relationship with the next team coming in, and we've identified people, as we identified folk if the government had changed. Mike, you were on our list of serious Republicans, had there been a change.
GREEN Thanks for lunches. I enjoyed them while they lasted!
MOORE And they're going to keep going. We're not going to stop just because you didn't make it. So that's the strategy, and we've talked to dear friends and we've built up relationships. But here's the thing: great national interests do not change with a change of government at either end. We have our dairy interests, we have our pharmaceutical interests, America has its interests, and we can work this through. But on civilizational matters, on issues of freedom of navigation, of human rights, of property rights - you know, basically we're the same.
SHANE And that's a good place to leave it. Gentlemen, thank you very much for joining us.