Dec 15, 2007

What Cards Does Helen Have Up Her Sleeve?

Rather than award her silly awards for keeping her party from total disintegration we would have preferred a detailed analysis by John Armstrong and Trans Tasman of the policies or outcomes that the Labour Party might be able to use next year to pull back National's commanding lead. We know that there will be tax cuts, and we know that climate change will be a big theme, but neither will win Labour the election (National will probably offer more on tax, and seems to be in similar space to Labour on climate change). Helen must be planning more. The Hive is doing as much digging as possible and is beginning to dig up some nuggets.

We understand that an early policy outcome for the New Year will be confirmation that the China FTA has indeed been completed (why were all the trade lawyers too busy to attend such an important trade law conference?). Even before the deal is signed in March or April, the Government machine is gearing up for a major publicity campaign on the benefits that this deal is going to deliver to the economy.

We have also been picking up increasingly interesting signals on the US relationship. Aside from the multiple congressional delegations and a high level visit from the State Department in February, there may be an even bigger breakthrough - progress on the trade agreement front. We can't quite figure how this would work given the state of US politics, but contacts we have spoken to in Canberra advise that Australia has also picked up that an announcement might be pending. And sources in Washington suggest that USTR and others appear to be working hard to do something for New Zealand. What form this negotiation will take - a bilateral deal or the US joining the Trans Pacific Strategic Economic Partnership is unclear.

If we are right, then Helen will rightly deserve great praise. This would be a major achievement.
Our analysis of the tea leaves continues. We will report further.