NZ First leader gets deputy PM, foreign posts

WELLINGTON • Veteran protectionist politician Winston Peters was appointed New Zealand's new deputy prime minister and foreign minister yesterday, saying he would seek a greater voice in international affairs, including North Korea.

Mr Peters visited North Korea when he was foreign minister in a previous New Zealand government in 2005.

He is the party leader of New Zealand First, which is forming a coalition government with the Labour party after a closely fought election on Sept 23 failed to result in a majority for the governing National or Labour parties.

Mr Peters and Labour Prime Minister-designate Jacinda Ardern have found common ground in the "fortress New Zealand" type of policies. Both are looking to curb immigration, renegotiate certain trade deals and adjust the central bank's role.

Ms Ardern also wants to ban overseas buyers from purchasing existing homes as local residents find it increasingly difficult to buy homes.

A Bill to ban such purchases will be introduced by Christmas, she told a workers' conference yesterday.

But trade and foreign ownership curbs could hurt New Zealand's reputation as an open economy, and antagonise the likes of China.

Trade between the two countries has grown to more than NZ$20 billion (S$18.7 billion) a year, and Chinese President Xi Jinping called the relationship "unprecedented" in its depth.

While Mr Peters was expected to be offered the deputy role, his appointment as both deputy prime minister and foreign minister was unexpected.

Politics professor Richard Shaw from Massey University said Mr Peters was a "conservative economic nationalist", adding that "one of the things we have seen from him over the last couple of weeks is the concern with the extent that relatively unbridled free trade has on his constituents".

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 26, 2017, with the headline 'NZ First leader gets deputy PM, foreign posts'. Print Edition | Subscribe