Foreign Minister Nanaia Mahuta Charts a Course
The first Māori woman to be foreign minister, Nanaia Mahuta is an experienced lawmaker known for her deep roots in Māori tribal diplomacy, Charlotte Graham-McLay writes for The Washington Post. Mahuta has her work cut out. Can she thread the needle? “I think the time now calls for a different way of doing things,” the politician said in an interview with the newspaper.
Mahuta has proffered early examples of her strategy, telling reporters last month that New Zealand could use its role as host of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit this year to mediate talks between Australia and China, Graham-McLay reports.
And while Mahuta and Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern both declared a “strong relationship” with the United States under Trump, their politics suggest a more natural alliance with Biden. Ardern in November foreshadowed “even closer relations,” and Mahuta has spoken admiringly of Harris.
Her ascension nevertheless prompted racist commentary in a country still reckoning with its colonial past; some social media commenters in New Zealand said Mahuta’s facial tattoo made her unfit for the role. She was undeterred.
“I’m not there because I’m the same as what we’ve always had,” Mahuta said. “I’m there because I’m different and I’m able to bring a different perspective.”
Original article by Charlotte Graham-McLay, The Washington Post, January 13, 2021.
Photo by Nevada Halbert.