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A Social Call, Or Something More Worthwhile?

23 January 2002

A Social Call, Or Something More Worthwhile?

United Future leader, Hon Peter Dunne, welcomes today's news that the Prime Minister will meet President Bush in Washington in March.

"The stand-off between the two countries over the last 15 years has been of benefit to neither, and hopefully the March 26 White House meeting will mark the end of that era of petty diplomacy, even though the substantive differences on nuclear defence policy remain."

""The real test though will be whether the much vaunted meeting proves to be just a social call between old but estranged friends, or whether it leads to something more substantive than that."

"The Prime Minister says she wants to pursue the concept of a free trade agreement when she meets the President."

"The extent to which she is able to progress that with the President, given problems New Zealand had with the Clinton Administration on agricultural protectionism, will be the yardstick by which the value of this visit is measured."

"It will show whether our relationship with the United States is just at the 'occasional morning tea and scones' level, or is genuinely on a new basis."

"One thing is absolutely certain though: the news clips of the meeting will be replayed to the faithful ad nauseam throughout the year as Labour's re-election campaign unfolds, and maybe that is what matters most to the Prime Minister right now," Mr Dunne says.

Ends

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