Speech to NZ-US Council 10th Anniversary Conference
Hon Murray McCully
Minister of Foreign Affairs
4 May 2012
Speech to NZ-US Council 10th Anniversary Conference, Sky City Convention Centre
The Rt Hon Jim Bolger, Ambassador Huebner, Parliamentary colleagues past and present, distinguished guests: thank you for the opportunity to talk to you today about the strong and developing partnership between our country and the United States of America.
The ten years since the establishment of the NZ/US Council has seen the relationship gain remarkable momentum.
I want to personally thank the Council for its role in getting us to where we are today
Next year the US/NZ Council, its American counterpart, will host the Partnership Forum in Washington DC.
The new President of the US/NZ Council, Bill Maroni, is here today.
I wish him and my American friends every success as they start to plan for the forum.
Ladies and Gentlemen, we have made good progress in the relationship, achieved through quiet and methodical work.
Much of the focus of your discussions today will be on trade and economic issues.
The Trans-Pacific Partnership is obviously a key part of that.
But our relationship with the United States covers a huge breadth of cooperation which, under the Wellington Declaration, is turning into real practical outcomes.
The Declaration committed us to a new strategic partnership with the United States.
I am very pleased to be able to say that since signing it 18 months ago, we have kept the relationship moving steadily forward.
Our progress is today measured in solid practical outcomes rather than in media headlines, and I welcome that.
An enhanced political dialogue was, as you know, a fundamental element of the Declaration.
Following Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s visit to Wellington in late 2010 to sign the Declaration we have kept up what I think is a very good level of high-level interaction.
The US Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano visited Wellington earlier this week for wide-ranging discussions on the enormous breadth of security-related issues for which her department is responsible.
These include areas that are critical to New Zealand’s own national security, such as border security, cyber-security, counter-terrorism and people trafficking.
She met with the Prime Minister, myself, and a number of other senior Ministers.
She signed three bilateral agreements aimed at better aligning our national security frameworks.
A highlight of the enhanced political dialogue in the past year has of course been the Prime Minister’s very successful visit to Washington to meet with President Obama.
Later this month I will be visiting Washington myself for formal talks with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
The Wellington Declaration recognised that defence cooperation with the US had naturally become closer given our shared experience in Afghanistan.
President Obama recently signalled a greater engagement in the Asia Pacific region in the review of their defence policy.
In the context of these developments, we now have an increased level of defence cooperation with the US underway.
This is the follow-on of what was laid out in the Declaration.
Last year we saw the NZDF working with a US Coastguard vessel in a humanitarian exercise in the Pacific.
And a US Coastguard vessel helped with our drought relief mission to Tuvalu.
Today my colleague the Minister of Defence is in Waiouru visiting a joint field exercise between NZDF and US Army and Marine Corps.
This is a positive pattern of increased cooperation which gives practical effect to the Wellington Declaration, and I have no doubt that it will continue to evolve naturally, within the framework we have now established
Another particular area of focus is the Pacific.
Given it is the stretch of water that connects us, it is natural that a huge amount of attention is being given to practical cooperation in the Pacific.
Better New Zealand and US integration in the region is critical for both economic and security reasons.
Last year the United States sent its largest ever delegation to the Pacific Islands Forum, which New Zealand as Chair hosted in Auckland.
That was a welcome sign of increased American engagement in the region, and we will work hard to ensure that this engagement sees results for the benefit of the region.
This means undertaking joint or cooperative development projects in the Pacific, in areas such as renewable energy – a vital issue for Pacific nations – as well as disaster risk management and waste management.
The United States opened a USAID Office in Port Moresby last year.
This is a welcome sign, and we have agreed to work closely together so that our aid programmes can deliver most effectively.
An important foreign policy objective for both of our countries has been to step up our participation in the Asia part of the Asia Pacific region.
For New Zealand this has resulted in increased trade and economic cooperation, especially through the FTAs with China and the ASEANs, and FTA aspirations with a range of other significant players in the region.
We strongly welcomed the US decision to join the East Asia Summit, bringing the US into a whole suite of regional gatherings.
While to the outsider they may appear to be talkfests, it is difficult to overstate the value of the structured dialogue that now occurs regularly under ASEAN brokerage with all of the key players at the table.
Given our shared objectives, this has opened a whole new range of opportunities for US-NZ cooperation.
Ladies and Gentlemen, I’d like to close my remarks today by mentioning two important anniversaries this year.
First of all, 2012 marks the 70th anniversary of diplomatic relations between the United States and New Zealand.
It was on the 16th of Februrary 1942, when Sir Walter Nash presented his credentials to President Roosevelt in Washington DC, that the United States formally recognised New Zealand as an independent state.
As significant as that date was, it might not have stuck in the popular memory.
The same can’t be said, however, about the Marines arriving in Wellington harbour in June 1942, for which we also celebrate the 70th anniversary this year.
This June, we will welcome a large contingent of Marines to New Zealand to say thank you and acknowledge this debt of honour.
Ladies and Gentlemen, we will keep working hard to expand and deepen our cooperation with the United States in areas of critical importance to New Zealand.
I am firmly optimistic that the progress we have made since the inauguration of this Council will continue over the next decade.