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Peters: Building stronger relationships with US

Building stronger relationships with the US

Foreign Minister Winston Peters' speech to the 2006 American Chamber of Commerce-USP Success and Innovation Business Awards dinner

Hyatt Regency Hotel, Auckland

Good evening. Thank you for the invitation to present the awards this evening.

It’s a wonderful opportunity to celebrate the successes of some of New Zealand’s most thriving companies. Congratulations to all finalists and winners tonight.

In a large market like the United States, your success is testament to the mix of ingenuity, individuality and industriousness of New Zealanders in business, and in general.

It is self-evident that the US market is large and important, and that external trade and investment is an essential part of New Zealand’s economic prosperity.

But the relationship between New Zealand and the United States is far broader than its economic dimension.

The fundamental importance to New Zealand of the United States cannot be overstated. It is clearly seen in the economic sphere – with the sheer size and sophistication of the US market – and also in the realm of foreign policy.

New Zealand needs to work with the United States. It is the world’s largest single power.

Working with them is the only way we will achieve the sort of world we say we believe in: one defined by peace, prosperity and security.

The reality is that it’s just not possible to get very far on these goals without the United States on board.

By the same token, the United States cannot do everything itself either. It also needs friends and partners, both on big global issues and on tricky regional concerns.

To the US we offer an intimately engaged knowledge of the South Pacific, and a fresh view from a different corner of the expansive Asia-Pacific region.

Our open economy has really walked the talk and is an outstanding example of an open and liberalised world.

Strengthening our relationship with the US, by making more of the shared values and goals, will work to everyone’s advantage.

Over the course of the past year, the two governments have committed to a process of strengthening the relationship.

This process is not about sudden big breakthroughs but about making solid, sustainable, cumulative progress over time.

It is focussed on examining all the areas and issues that are important to both governments, and checking that our cooperation in these areas is at its fullest – all the time respecting each other’s unique policy positions.

There have been a number of constructive high-level meetings recently between Ministers and senior officials of both countries, and many helpful visits in both directions.

In April the New Zealand-United States Council, and its Washington counterpart, held the inaugural Partnership Forum.

While this wasn’t government-run, it was attended by Phil Goff and David Cunliffe, as well as the chief executives of several government departments. Former Prime Ministers Jim Bolger and Mike Moore also graced the occasion.

The Forum was a fantastic opportunity for a range of stakeholders in the US relationship to talk about the overall relationship and our broad areas of cooperation, and to raise New Zealand’s profile.

It was attended by several CEOs and senior executives of US corporates, as well as by Tom Donohue, the President of the US Chamber of Commerce. There was very senior participation from the US Administration too.

The next Partnership Forum is already being planned – this time to be held in New Zealand, in the second half of 2007.

A visit to Washington in July provided an excellent chance to discuss directly with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice the state of New Zealand’s relationship with the US.

It was a very fruitful discussion, and since then it has been pleasing to be in regular contact with the Secretary over matters such as North Korea's nuclear test.

Visits or meetings are not an end in themselves. But it can be a useful way of focusing on what is occurring over the breadth of a relationship, and to identify areas that could enhance cooperation.

So what does all this talk between the two governments mean for New Zealand exporters? What you are all most interested in, undoubtedly, is whether or not this gets us a Free Trade Agreement.

The answer is that it certainly gets us closer to the possibility of negotiations by ensuring New Zealand is more consistently on the US radar. When New Zealand comes up we want to be considered in the light of our cooperation across a multitude of areas.

To be clear: the US chooses FTA partners on the basis of economic and strategic significance, not on the number of two-way visits or consistency across all policy areas.

That said, just last week senior officials in the State Department were saying that America would like very much to see a Free Trade Agreement happen.

What the government is doing is working hard on improving the relationship so that when the US is able to look again at taking on new partners, we are a natural early thought.

This brings us to your role in all this.

Relationships between states are not determined wholly by the conversations of ministers. Their substance lies in the daily interactions of people – especially those in commerce.

It falls to everyone here tonight to continue to build your US trade networks – each person you talk to is a potential champion of a stronger relationship.

And as you will know, being in business, a few champions go a long way towards ensuring success.

Congratulations once again on your outstanding successes.

ends

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