Monday, July 20, 2009

MSG, Pacific Forum, Global Trade & The American Dream.

From The Interpreter's
Jenny Hayward Jones post:

Is the MSG a threat to Pacific unity?

by Jenny Hayward-Jones - 20 July 2009 9:26AM
The decision by the Melanesian Spearhead Group’s (MSG) leaders on 10 July to lend their support to Fiji’s interim Government, and the backpedalling by leaders since that decision, reveals some interesting insights into how diplomacy works — or does not work — in the Pacific.
The meeting was held at a useful juncture for Bainimarama – a week after he delivered his Strategic Framework for Change speech and three weeks before the Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) Leaders’ Summit in Cairns, from which he has been excluded. He seized the opportunity to secure endorsement for his agenda from a group of the region’s most influential countries.

The support offered to Bainimarama by the leaders of Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu was likely driven by a sense of obligation to Melanesian brotherhood, a desire to assert a Melanesian approach that differed from that of Australia, New Zealand and the Polynesian members of the Forum, and some pandering to domestic constituencies concerned about Fiji’s suspension from the Forum.
If the MSG is to prove it is an effective sub-regional grouping, its leaders should present a clear and united front to the region and demonstrate that Melanesian-style diplomacy offers a better way of dealing with Fiji. The situation in Fiji is such that the region is crying out for creative solutions. Supporting Bainimarama's Strategic Framework for Change, Fiji’s continuing engagement in the PIF and the right to participate in regional trade agreements all telegraphed a strong message to the region about Melanesian solidarity.
But in the week since that message was delivered, Prime Minister Somare has said dialogue with Fiji was 'not an issue for the MSG', confirming that the MSG would ultimately abide by the majority decision on Fiji’s status in the PIF in Cairns. And Vanuatu Prime Minister Edward Natapei has indicated the MSG didn’t necessarily support Bainimarama’s roadmap.
The softening of the MSG’s tone may have been a response to reminders from other PIF members (almost certainly delivered early last week) about the importance of Forum unity. But it does beg questions about the future role and integrity of the MSG. The MSG should be a dominant sub-regional group and should be leading discussion within the Forum on handling Fiji. The members of the MSG (excluding New Caledonia) have a combined population of 8.2 million, GDP of US$12.7 billion and land area of 521,672 sq kms. By contrast, their Polynesian and Micronesian fellow members of the Forum have a combined population of 608,000, GDP of US$1.7 billion and land area of 6,363 sq kms.
The delivery of such contradictory public messages on Fiji within the space of one week, however, is hardly a demonstration of a group capable of challenging the status quo in the region or indeed of an approach that will assist Fiji in 'building commitment and capacity for genuine dialogue consistent with Melanesian values and traditional practices.'
Photo by flickr user Jo Levine, used under a Creative Commons license.

New Zealand Prime Minister, John Key is gearing up for Forum meeting in Cairns. Article originally from New Herald, about the signals being sent to Pacific states.
PM Key sending clear diplomatic signals to Pacific nations
By Online Editor
5:04 pm GMT+12, 20/07/2009, New Zealand

NZ PM John Key
Too much attention to foreign fields can result in a few tantrums back home.
In the Far North last week, Mayor Wayne Brown wrote a truculent column about the attentions Mr Key had given to the Pacific compared to the Far North. Callers to a talkback show grilled him about giving aid to Pacific countries when New Zealand itself was hardly rolling in the money.
A supporter of medicinal cannabis castigated him for "enthusiastically" swigging back "a psychoactive substance called kava" despite rejecting bids to allow the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes at home.
They should get their pens ready again - Mr Key is off in a fortnight to Cairns in Australia for the Pacific Forum leaders' meeting. He will visit Australia again soon after, to meet Prime Minister Kevin Rudd to push for the furtherance of the single economic market goals.Then it is off to Trinidad and Tobago for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting. A trip to the United States follows the month after.
By choosing to take over the trip that is traditionally left to the minister of foreign affairs, Mr Key was sending a clear indication that he intends to be no less prominent in foreign affairs than Helen Clark was.
On the face of it, it was a “goodwill” mission. After a decade of Miss Clark, the leaders must have wondered what they were in for. It did not take them long to find out. He has a proclivity for what the media call “Clark would never have done that” moments.
There was a “Clark would never have done that" at the lively nature of Mr Key's delegation, complete with hip hop dancers and former All Blacks.
There was another as Mr Key camped up his dance with Miss Niue and again as he used the word “children” about Fiji and Samoa when commenting on the relative merits of their kava.
“Clark would never have done that,” they muttered after John Key hollered out a joke to them about the king's dog Poobah. It is true that Miss Clark - a polished performer on the international stage and well aware of the gravitas of her role - would never have done the things Mr Key does.
But the difference is deliberate and, for him, it works. He knows he lacks the grounding to emulate Miss Clark, of whom a foreign affairs official only half joked was better placed to brief them to be briefed by them.
His personality is also starkly different. Mr Key has never been risk averse, as long as the risk is calculated. The trip proved that.
The delegation which began looking somewhat like a circus did more than simply cement Mr Key's relationships at a leader to leader level.
The hip-hop crew proved strong ambassadors at a level Mr Key could never have done.
But the leaders of those countries will also have learned that after the dancing is over, Mr Key plays as straight a game as Miss Clark did.
Niue's Toke Talagi in particular learnt not to try to lure Mr Key into a diplomatic game by playing China off against New Zealand in a bid to have aid funding released.
Mr Key called his bluff - telling him to go ahead. Mr Key takes a pragmatic stance on China's incursions with aid money and easy loans into the Pacific.
Rather than rail King Canute-like against it, he has instead publicly said China's increasing role is an inevitable consequence of its efforts to gain wider international influence.
Instead of protesting, he has urged China to work with New Zealand.
His aim is not only to ensure the money is not spent on wasted efforts, but to allow New Zealand to see exactly where it is spent.
However, he has also sent the clear message to those island countries that they deal with China at their own risk, that New Zealand will not step in to bail them out if it goes awry.
Behind the doors, Mr Key was also trying to shore up support for centring the Pacific Forum agenda next month on them and the economic downturn - not Fiji.
The Pacific Islands Forum has often been criticised as of negligible value, a grouping that talks a lot but does little.
Such outcomes are anathema to Mr Key, and so his reconnaissance trip was more about trying to ensure something concrete emerges when the leaders meet next week.
What he wants when he flies into Cairns is allies to help staunch talk of allowing Fiji to rejoin the forum.
What he wants when he flies out of Cairns is to be carrying a communique filled with concrete proposals on measures to help the Pacific Islands in the recession.
So as soon as Mr Key returned from his trip, Murray McCully went on his own - to Kiribati and Tuvalu, as well as follow-up visits to Tonga and Samoa.
Duncan Kerr, the Australian Parliamentary Secretary for Pacific Islands Affairs, was simultaneously roaming the Pacific, peddling much the same message Mr Key - tend to your own lands in a time of trial, not Fiji.
What Mr Key got out of the trip was some surety that the other leaders would largely be singing from the same song sheet.
What the Pacific leaders got out of it was some reassurance that Mr Key would not neglect their interests - and the chance to make it just that little bit more difficult for him to make decisions based solely on bottom lines.
The difference in New Zealand's relations with the Pacific and the wider world was spelled out in an uncharacteristically sentimental paragraph in a Cabinet paper on the Pacific Agreement for Closer Economic Relations.
“In every other context, trade policy starts by putting the interest of New Zealand exporters first and aggressively so. In the Pacific, it is different.
“Here, our policy approach should start by putting our political, people to people relationships first. In some cases - Tonga, Samoa, the Cooks, for example - they are part of us.”
A day in each country was not long. But it was long enough for Mr Key to learn the truth of that. John Key emerged from his trip knowing he got on famously with the King of Tonga, albeit perhaps with a slight headache after being plied with champagne at 11am and then two hours of pre-dinner drinks later in the day for a dinner that went well past the scheduled 10pm end.
Samoa also won a little of his heart, especially the village of Poutasi, where he was met by the village men proudly wearing New Zealand themed T-shirts as a tacit "thanks" for the seasonal labour scheme.
After just one hour in the village, they were offering him a chiefly title and he was waxing lyrical about the conch shell blowing at 6pm for prayers each day and 10pm bedtime rule. Miss Clark's greatest gift to Mr Key is in the area of foreign affairs where she drove home the importance of assiduously built connections and Zealand's reputation as an honest broker.
He knows he cannot out-Clark her - but nor does he plan to squander what she has bequeathed him.

Claire Trevett is a political writer for The New Zealand Herald.


Trans-Tasman leverage against MSG countries appears to be eroding like a sand castle on Bondi. As the post by Interpreter alludes to, the MSG decision to back Fiji was recognized as a constructive engagement that could undermine the very credibility of the forum.
Lately, the definition of decisions conveniently stamped with "manufactured consensus" in Forum communiques seems to be attracting clouds of doubts. Subjectively, those decision were made with Pacific Island representatives, wholly omitted from the negotiating table.

These warnings have been heard before. Some from a former and ousted Pacific Forum's Director of Economic Governance, Dr. Roman Grynberg; who dispatched an open letter to PNG Prime Minister and MSG Leaders prior to their recent meet.
Such advice. which was undoubtedly crucial and persuasive to the outcome. Melanesia Spearhead Group (MSG) represents a regional sub-bloc of island states in the region-with more population, mineral and fossil fuel resources.
Dr. Grynberg's letter was published in Pac News website.
The excerpt:

Open Letter from Dr Grynberg's to PNG Prime Minister and MSG Leaders
By Online Editor
1:38 pm GMT+12, 10/07/2009, Fiji

Dr Roman Grynberg is the former Director of Economic Governance at the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat

Grand Chief Sir Michael Somare

I am writing this public letter to you and the other MSG leaders in the hope that the troubling recent developments in regard to the future PACER Plus Agreement with Australia and New Zealand can be addressed at the up-coming MSG Leaders Summit.
There can be little doubt that the PACER Plus agreement, if properly negotiated, will be of enormous benefit to the people of Papua New Guinea as well as all the peoples of Melanesia and the wider Pacific islands region. However, the lead up to these negotiations has shown that the reality is likely to fall far short of the potential because of the excessive haste that has been shown by Australia and New Zealand in pushing the Pacific Island Countries into negotiations when they are simply not ready to do so given that they remain involved in highly complex negotiations with the EU.
The Pacific island nations have not had sufficient time to either consult adequately with national stakeholders or to undertake genuinely neutral and scientific analysis of what type of future trade arrangement would be in their interests. The arrangements for future negotiations that have been reported in the media following the Apia meeting of Forum Trade Ministers are very disturbing and will almost certainly leave the PNG, as well as Melanesian countries and the wider Pacific islands without sufficient capacity to negotiate.
A significant issue in all of this has been the exclusion of Fiji from the negotiations. While I am deeply supportive of the democratic process and the Forum efforts to promote democracy the current situation will mean that the entire people of Fiji will be penalized by their exclusion from PACER through events not of their own making. Moreover, once democracy returns to Fiji there can be little doubt that a future democratic government will have little choice but to accept the terms of an agreement that will have been negotiated without its participation.
The arrangements being developed require complete ownership of the negotiating process by the Pacific islands. It is for this reason that I write to you to call on you and other MSG leaders to remove the negotiating process from the Pacific Islands Forum altogether and move it to the Melanesian Spearhead Group Secretariat. I also call upon you to assure the rights of the people of Fiji are protected and that their voice can be actively heard at the trade negotiations.
In order to assure that a neutral negotiation occurred the small island states should also be invited to participate in an MSG based negotiation. While I recognize the direct financial cost of such an action the PACER plus treaty is so important to an entire generation of young Papua New Guineans, Melanesians and Pacific Islanders that it cannot be handled by institutions which are so thoroughly dominated by Australian and New Zealand interests. Only the MSG has the neutrality to manage this process.
I know that PNG and other Melanesian countries jealously and rightly guard their sovereignty. To sacrifice this sovereignty on such an important matter as your future economic relations with your neighbors and to potentially end up with a treaty that is not in your interests would be the sacrifice of your sovereignty for which you fought.
Sir, you are the last remaining father of the Forum. Your vision in creating the Forum was grand but in certain matters such as these the Pacific Islands simply cannot leave such important negotiations to institutions dominated by the interests of Australia and New Zealand.
Yours sincerely
Dr Roman Grynberg

Dr Roman Grynberg is the former Director of Economic Governance at the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat.

As growth seems to be among the crucial factors for economic growth. In light of the current global economic climate, and the ripple effects to the world in general. The aspect of the American Dream was addressed and how that image of consumerism inadvertently contributed to the global financial malaise.

This discussion of trade, growth, consumerism and global trade was featured in an American Radio Works documentary and the growing doubt about the entire system of trade, banking, regulation and government.


The "American dream" has powered the hopes and aspirations of Americans for generations. It began as a plain but revolutionary notion: each person has the right to pursue happiness, and the freedom to strive for a better life through hard work and fair ambition. But over time, this dream has come to represent a set of expectations about owning things and making money. So what exactly is the American dream? How did we come to define it? And is it changing?

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