I’m not sure if I should feel sorry for the USA or not

Former Trade Minister Tim Groser doesn’t need to say he feels liberated: he exudes it.

His feet are resting on the coffee table in Parliament’s transition room as he contemplates his next move as a free man – a return to the diplomatic corps in the plum role as Ambassador to the United States.

It will not just be a life relatively free from the demands of near-constant travel, it will be a life, full-stop.

“My office worked out two or three years ago that I was overseas more than 200 days a year and boy, I’m not going to miss that,” he said.

“Constant travel – you have no life at all.”

He is looking forward to resuming a personal life, going to the movies, playing music, getting fit, things he found impossible to do while on the move.

It’s time to be put out to pasture on a cushy gig.  

Groser is speaking from the corner office on Parliament’s second floor where deposed and retiring Prime Ministers and sacked and “in- between” ministers go before moving on.

Its last inhabitant was Judith Collins, before she was reinstated to the cabinet.

Groser is an in-between. He will head to Washington in late January, with his ministerial career having ended on several highs: concluding a free-trade agreement with Korea, helping to conclude the TPP free-trade deal in October, and he was a vital part of the Paris climate-change agreement in December, having promoted the conditions under which the United States and other major emitters would join – essentially with meaningful but non-binding targets.

And because of his close working relationship with the US Climate Change envoy Todd Stern and US Trade Representative Mike Froman, he says he has been invited by both of them to take part in the political sell of the TPP and the Paris agreement in Washington.

“I will have to avoid becoming involved in their internal politics but putting the substance of the case as the New Zealand Government’s Ambassador in Washington, I’ve got a probably unique position in both these areas.

“There is no doubt that this will be the major focus of the first period of my time in Washington.”

Selling the TPP to a reluctant US is indeed a good move.  He may end up being useful, rather than wither away at a largely ceremonial position.

But word filtering out is that Barack Obama is coming here in seven weeks time to sign the TPP in Auckland.

 

– NZ Herald


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