New PM’s trade diplomacy upstaged by wedding bells
New Prime Minister Bill English can look back on a successful week with two positive trade discussions, but the eyes of New Zealanders were focused further south at the weekend.
Genuine New Zealand sporting royalty All Black legend Richie McCaw and his equally talented bride Gemma Flynn were tying the knot in Wanaka in what we are told was a top-secret ceremony.
The presence of 22 security guards kept the press and other outsiders at bay but did not stop us from getting reports on her wedding dress and whatever other details could be scrounged up, reflecting the society pages of bygone years.
It was a consolation for the South Island to be the centre of attention, coming as it did on the heels of the announcement that Tauranga had overtaken Dunedin as New Zealand’s fifth largest city. Mainlanders can claim it’s a poisoned chalice, with Tauranga now suffering the twin fish hooks of traffic congestion and rising house prices — but New Zealand’s centre of gravity continues to shift further north.
While he was overshadowed by the McCaw wedding, English would be happy with his first foray into Europe.
Encouraging talks with European Union leaders Jean-Claude Juncker and Donald Tusk could lead to what has been described as a deep and high-quality trade deal which would give the country better access to 500 million comparatively affluent Europeans.
English also got a good response from British Prime Minister Theresa May on the prospects of a new trade deal being negotiated as soon as possible after Brexit. His tour will end with a meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
It gets election year off well for English as the Labour Party prepares to strategise for the coming poll in what are completely different circumstances, after the decision of John Key, who coincidentally was also in London last weekend, to stand down. So the new PM from Dipton has had a good start in the international spotlight, even if he was left in the shadow of his fellow South Islanders Richie and Gemma.