A few weeks ago you might not have noticed Nanaia Mahuta’s signal that travel restrictions were on the way for Myanmar military leadership. But any excuse for believing that New Zealand had zero autonomous sanctions options without enabling legislation disappeared on 24 February. That’s when the Foreign Minister joined Jacinda Ardern in announcing a series of measures in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. There were three of these; travel bans on “Russian Government officials and other individuals associated with the invasion of Ukraine,” suspending some of New Zealand’s diplomatic interactions with Russia, and a prohibition on the “the export of all goods intended for use by the Russian military and security forces, including any armed force, paramilitary force, police force, or militia.”
The export controls are the most likely reason why New Zealand appeared on the list of sanctioning allies and partners in a White House Factsheet. That naming sits nicely alongside the government’s suggestions that New Zealand was “very much in line” with and “standing alongside" its partners. But the absence of autonomous sanctions legislation has reduced the range of available levers. Even if it wanted to, New Zealand can’t legally do all the things its partners can, especially when the sanctions don’t limit government to government interactions.