US ambassador on the road
US President Donald Trump has recognised Jerusalem as the capital of Israel but how will that work when the Middle East is enraged at the announcement?
That was one of the questions put to US ambassador to New Zealand, Scott Brown, at a talk by Mr Brown in Gisborne last night.
The government structure in Israel was in Jerusalem, Mr Brown said. Recognition of Tel Aviv as the capital was in name only.
Mr Trump will advance the peace process “but it takes two to tango”.
“It is not happening tomorrow. We hope everyone keeps an open mind for now.”
Mr Brown talked about popular views of the new US president, his stance on the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA), US withdrawal from the Paris accord, impending tax regulation changes in the US, gun control and the superpower’s relationship with New Zealand.
“Politics in the US is messy right now,” he said.
“Keep an open mind and let officials work through issues.”
Following the general election in New Zealand politicians were still sorting out issues in this country, he said. New Zealand is the only country he knows of where the opposition controls the committees in government.
American people were tired of the “same old, same old” and the “gimme, gimme” taxation, he said.
“They wanted someone who is not like anyone else. This president is certainly not like anyone else.”
Trade between US and NZMr Brown is keen to see a trade deal established with New Zealand, and is a strong proponent of bilateral and unilateral deals. Mr Trump was also keen on doing a trade deal but not with 11 countries as with the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement, said the ambassador.
“You might not like what’s happening with the TPP and the US withdrawal from the Paris accord but this is the first time in my lifetime a politician has done what he said he’s going to do.
“He’s streamlined the regulatory agencies. Business and work confidence is off the chart.”
Mr Trump announced this year the US would no longer participate in the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change mitigation because it would undermine the US economy and put the country at a permanent disadvantage.
With a $20 trillion net debt, the president was not going to keep printing money, Mr Brown said.
“The president has not turned his back on it. We felt we could get a better deal.”
The US had been innovative for 50 years with solar and thermal technology and automaker and energy storage companies like Tesla. China was doing “amazing things”, but when it went into the South China Sea and ground up more than 100 square kilometres of coral reefs and destroyed marine life, there was very little outcry from most people, Mr Brown said.
“If you want to be a world power you have to play within the rules,” he said.
“New Zealand also has some challenging issues with carbon dioxide emissions from volcanoes and farm animals,” he said.
“How do we protect our rivers? I don’t think you’re going to do it the way things are going.”
Among global situations that troubled him was North Korea, whose nuclear missiles can reach New Zealand, the US and Guam.
President Trump’s tweets were not instigating North Korea’s violations of US sanctions.
US sanctions“North Korea has violated US sanctions for the past 12 years. Regardless of what you think of the tweets it’s the first time in my life a president has done what he says he going to do.”
In the great scheme of life, President Trump’s tweets were not a big deal, he said.
Mr Brown said he saw his role as keeping his family safe and to bring the US and New Zealand closer together.
How does everyone get their fair share? he said in response to a question from the floor about taxation.
Many politicians, including Trump, are looking to introduce a lower tax rate so offshore cash will be brought back and pay for various projects or tax cuts.
“I’m a strong proponent of repatriation of that money,” he said.
“We need to streamline our tax laws.”
Along with Japan, the US has the highest tax rate in the world, he said.
People talk about closing taxation loopholes but loopholes can be found in other areas such as mortgage interest, child care, wind and solar power.
“Let’s sit down and put it all on the table.”
Asked about gun control in the US, he said there had been success in some states around gun control but that needed to be achieved at a national level. Regulation had been put in place around use of silencers and butt stocks but questions around what constitutes an assault weapon, for instance, needed to be worked out.
Mr Brown, who in his spare time enjoys playing the guitar and competing in triathlons, joined Gisborne musician Neil Smoker to perform the Bon Jovi song Living on a Prayer.
And this morning he went out training with a group of Gisborne triathletes.