One would imagine that if the soon-to-be leader of the free world gave you a call, that you’d answer even if you had to scramble out of the bath, or bed, to do so.
Apparently not, given that New Zealand’s Prime Minister John Key astonishingly claimed in an interview this week that President-Elect Donald Trump had called him and he had simply missed it.
“Prime Minister John Key has described US President Elect Donald Trump as warm and engaging, after the two leaders finally got their first phone call.
Trump offered his condolences to New Zealand after the North Canterbury earthquakes, and had been well-briefed on emergency evacuations and relief efforts in the wake of Monday’s 7.5 quake near Hanmer.
It was the second attempt at getting the pair hooked up, after Key confirmed he had missed a call from Trump’s team in the early aftermath of the quake. Key had been meaning to call Trump to congratulate him on winning the US election last week, but the quake response had taken priority.”
Except the U.S. election was November 8th and according to Wikipedia, the earthquake struck on November 14th, six days later.
Another Stuff article about the matter says that John Key was “not quite sure how the call slipped by, but was hopeful the pair would connect soon.”
John Key then told Stuff “Yeah, apparently, that’s what Trump’s people said, that apparently I missed a call. But I had my phone, I certainly didn’t see it…”
However, in a video interview with the NZ Herald, John Key references Trump’s people having left him a voicemail so it is clear the call was made. In the interview Key blames the transition period for the confusion:
“It’s partly because, if we were dealing with the President’s office then it’s a little bit more structured. But they’re in that transition phase…”
So, it was the six-days-after-the-election earthquake, then it was a phantom call that happened to leave a voicemail, then it was the transition to blame. Welcome to Planet Key.
But there is a far more likely reason for the delay and it is not the geological earthquake, but the geopolitical one:
John Key donated millions of public dollars to the Clinton Foundation, arguably the worst investment of all time.
His pet media were uniformly backing the wrong horse and so Key has kept his distance from Trump but now finds himself in the unenviable position of having to deal with him regardless.
John Key is no stranger to scandal, and prone to telling porkies (over 400 of them to date) so this is all probably no big deal to him.
The TPP, on the other hand, seems to be a very big deal to him. He is so miffed about it not passing, that he is already preparing contingency plans.
Plan A: Lecture the Americans on what is best for their country
Ahead of the APEC summit in Peru, John Key told the NZ Herald about how he plans to broach the issue.
“About TPP. I’ll put in a pitch and say the TPP has been an important agreement and the US has been a cornerstone in that agreement and I think it’s well and truly in the US’s best interests to be part of it and that while I appreciate that he has concerns about the deal and wants to satisfy himself that the deal meets the standards he wants or make some other suggestions, I don’t think they should leave that void for a long period of time because I think in the end that void could or would get filled and I don’t think that’s in the United States best interests.”
Plan B: Coercion
Newshub.co.nz writes “while Mr Trump has been very vocal about his opposition to the deal, Mr Key thinks he might still be swayed.”
Their article quotes John Key as saying that what Trump promises pre-election and what he does post-election may not be the same things, and that with a little “coercion” the picture might change:
“As we know in the United States, what happens on a campaign trail and ultimately what happens in reality when someone assumes the Oval Office can be a bit different. What Donald Trump has said is that TPP from his perspective is a horrible deal – he hasn’t said that he’s philosophically opposed to trade.
“He hasn’t had great things to say about TPP, but maybe with some coercion, maybe, maybe with some changes that we could agree to that didn’t have an overall significant enough in pact to slow the thing down dramatically, maybe it’s possible to get them there.” [emphasis added]
Plan C: Bad Jokes
The New Zealand Herald coverage of John Key’s performance at the Apec Summit has gotten downright groanworthy.
“Key joked about renaming it the Trump Pacific Partnership while speaking on a trade panel at a summit of CEOs.
He later said he believed Trump could be talked around…”
Plan D: Threaten To Do It Without The U.S.
John Key seems convinced that if Donald Trump won’t move ahead with the TPP that the other countries will simply go it alone.
There are multiple recent media references to him stating exactly that.
However, it is unlikely to take too many phone calls to other nations from Donald Trump to stymie Key’s plans should he attempt to go this route. Ultimately, the signatories are more likely to treasure their relationships with the U.S. over their relationships with John Key, who may well exit his Prime Ministership at New Zealand’s general election in 2017.
Key’s determination to ratify the TPP no matter what is extremely short-sighted. He is banking on what he perceives as the strength of the US-New Zealand relationship and New Zealand’s support over the issue of the South China Sea in order to hold sway over Trump. Key has repeatedly stated that the US-NZ relationship is the “strongest it has ever been“.
But that strength came from his efforts to pander to an Obama administration who had made a major investment in what they called “a pivot to Asia“. It was as a result of their prioritisation of the South Pacific region that led to Key’s Defence Minister announcing in kind a $20 billion investment in New Zealand’s comparatively miniscule military might.
Money that may well go down the tubes if Trump chooses diplomacy over continued military expansionism.
Plan E: Moan about lost ‘political capital’
John Key is yet another leader who faces retiring from office with his flagship achievements in tatters. His ‘financial hub’ scheme turned New Zealand into a tax haven uniquely singled out by the Panama Papers whistleblower in his manifesto. Key’s $26 million campaign to change the New Zealand flag became, to put it nicely, the laughing stock of New Zealand.
Now his precious ‘trade’ deal, which he has pushed through at every turn against the express wishes of the vast majority of the New Zealand public (and arguably, against their direct interests) is on the rocks as well.
John Key told the NZ Herald that “Every country has gone through a lot to get to this point. Every political leader somewhere along the line has burnt a bit of political capital and called in some favours to get TPP there.”
What he’s really saying is that this debacle which has spanned more than half a decade is his final swan song, hence his desperation to push it through by any means possible.
How much, or little, weight a Prime Minister of a country of 4 million people holds in the international arena, remains to be seen. His attempts to champion the Trans-Pacific Partnership against Trump’s express wishes are unlikely to win him any favours.
Written by Suzie Dawson
Official Website: Suzi3d.com
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