Magazine article New Zealand Management

Why It Takes "2" to Tango

Magazine article New Zealand Management

Why It Takes "2" to Tango

Article excerpt

Underneath the high diplomacy of prime ministers and presidents and the detailed diplomacy of the professionals lies "track 2". It is a growing dimension of our outreach.

Track 2 is high-level people-to-people diplomacy amongst academics, business leaders, heads of institutions that range from culture to economics, plus usually a media figure or two.

People-to-people contact is constant through sports, tourism, business, exchange students, aid volunteers or conferences. That generally works well for this country because New Zealanders are mostly open and friendly, but it is haphazard, serendipitous and irregular.

Track 2 adds another dimension, still in essence outside the Government. A minister or two and senior officials may be involved, but as participants, not masters. It creates a forum where issues that matter to two or

more countries can be talked about relatively freely and without the constraint of rigid national interest governments must always serve. Ministers can and do speak more bluntly.

Track 2's other main value is to generate a constituency in each country that thinks about bilateral issues. These constituencies also get to know each other.

An example is the 13-year-old Council for Security Cooperation in the Asia-Pacific (CSCAP) which brings together academics, specialists and officials in their private capacities from countries around the Pacific Rim to discuss security and political issues within and among member countries and develop policy recommendations for governments.

Another is Australia's long-running annual dialogue with the United States. The venue alternates between the two countries.

This was the model for the Australia-New Zealand Leadership Forum, set up in 2004. This year, long overdue, a United States-New Zealand Partnership Forum had its first meeting in Washington.

To help get the Americans to take notice, former Prime Ministers Jim Bolger and Mike Moore led the New Zealand delegation and current Defence and Trade Minister Phil Goff turned up. The American team also fielded some high-powered figures, including American Chamber of Commerce president Tom Donohue and Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill.

No wonders were worked. But some bogeys were confronted (notably the anti-nuclear standoff) and some ghosts were laid. That allowed the focus to be principally on common interests. The result was a small step towards a more positive country-to-country relationship and a little more weight added in Washington to New Zealand's bid for a free trade agreement. …

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