Last year, I was pretty critical of the US over the Dubai Ports’ deal. And New Zealand, despite the Labour Government’s objection to the war in Iraq, is pretty much now ﬂushing its goodwill away among Arab nations (especially the Gulf Coast countries) with Minister of Trade Phil Goff’s remarks opposing the sale of Auckland International Airport to Dubai Aerospace Enterprise.
I have heard from a friend in the UAE who has drawn a parallel between the two incidents. Apparently, this is not lost on the media there. And New Zealand just looks as anti-Arab xenophobic as the United States is perceived in the Middle East right now. The past fortnight has not been good on this country’s international perception, with the satire ban already the butt of jokes in the US.
In 2006, US Democrats went all xenophobic when they could not get past the word Arab in United Arab Emirates, and the US Government eventually forced DP World to sell its American ports after it fairly acquired them from P&O. So much for all these Democratic candidates saying they will be fairer toward the Arab world when compared to President Bush and his Cabinet. I wrote last year:
By all means, attack this UAE company [DP World] if it can be found that it was complicit in terrorism or any other crime, and stop this acquisition. But maintain the American tradition of guilty till proved innocent.
The United States has made much of its headway through acquisitions of foreign companies, and the UAE is playing by the same rule book. The legal system in the UAE is actually a combination of traditional Shari’a, Egyptian law, the civil law tradition and common law—the last concept being shared with the US. In other words, it’s a pretty global legal system that is adhered to well.
What next? Get all foreigners to divest their US interests and sell up? It’s the message being sent around the world in non-US media: we can’t see beyond your ethnicity.
In the Fairfax Press today:
Shares in Auckland International Airport fell 7 per cent on Monday after Mr Goff was reported as saying the government was opposed to a takeover offer for the airport by Dubai Aerospace Enterprise Ltd.
while in the Gulf News:
The New Zealand government is against the proposed sale of the airport to DAE, the newly-formed $15 billion aviation conglomerate, and its trade minister said the deal could be “against national interests,” reported the New Zealand Herald yesterday. …
Last week, Foreign Minister Winston Peters told Reuters the proposed sale was “commercially shabby” and against national interests.
I have never thought Mr Goff to be a smart man, but certainly a politically shrewd one. Mr Peters is an opportunist, willing to score domestic points whenever possible. This is playing to the crowd, but on the whole, some opposition and debate is better than an unconsidered, anything-goes sale. It is, sadly, this sort of ill-considered hyperbole that gets New Zealand into trouble and a real foreign minister—you know, one that does his homework—would have chosen his words more wisely.
I put the whole matter into context for my friend, in replying:
This one is a bit different because I believe anti-Arab sentiment is not behind it. New Zealand had a history of selling off state assets, but that is now deemed highly unpopular as it has weakened the country. New Zealanders balk at the idea of foreign ownership of any asset in which the state had control, so even if the bidder was from a western nation, the same thing would have happened.
I think it is a fair evaluation: the Fairfax article points out, ‘local polls show the majority of Aucklanders oppose the deal,’ and I would like to think that a multicultural city like Auckland would not be xenophobic. It is a reaction against the monetarist policies of the 1980s which have widened the rich–poor gap in New Zealand, a country that once prided (and still attempts to pride) itself on being a fair and just nation.
However, I can well understand just how these actions are seen in the GCC, as this government puts its foot in it once more, with some ridiculous antics that do not pass muster in the international sandbox in which it wishes to play. Internationalists, our politicians are not. Posted by Jack Yan, 10:56
Beautifully written and well to the point. Sad to have just heard that a teacher has been sacked; (was in Auckland University) where a UAE female student got the bitter end of the stick through an ill-intended e-mail. What's sad in this is that the teacher (a New Yorker) is known for his high standards in academia and far from being racist, while the student is well, 'not the most of achievers.'
Again- a political twist to something that is far being one... Sad, for New Zealand is known for its multi-ethnicity, tolerance and neutrality to all beliefs and genders. I hope it does not further the interests of the few to over-sensationalize an incident, which, yes, is unfortunate, but far from being worthy to be inflated as either common or case-specific to a beautiful Country.
# posted by ali: 8/10/2007 04:07:00 PM
Ali, I quite agree there is a lot of negative press happening here. The emails about the professor have been published and in context, his comments are not as bad, but that is the second negative item from our shores that may be interpreted as anti-Arab. Now, there are repercussions over ﬂights to the Middle East done by Air New Zealand because they contained Australian military personnel (since we are not part of the War on Terror). I think that’s the hat-trick.Post a Comment
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