A key activity for the NZ US Council is the USNZ Partnership Forum. Organised by the NZUS Council and its Washington-based counterpart the USNZ Council, Partnership Forums are held every 18 to 24 months alternately in Washington DC and New Zealand. These Forums are key vehicles through which New Zealand has built and maintained high-level links with senior US Administration, Congressional and business leaders. They are widely recognised as having contributed significantly to the improvement in relations between New Zealand and the United States that has occurred over the past five years.
The first Partnership Forum was held in Washington DC in April 2006 with further events held in Auckland in September 2007, Washington DC in October 2009 and in Christchurch in February 2011.
The Partnership Forum is supported at the highest level of both governments but is strictly non-partisan and non-governmental in nature. On each occasion high-level delegations have participated from both sides. The US Delegation to the 2011 Forum included a Congressional delegation led by the Co-chairs of the Friends of New Zealand Congressional Caucus, Congressmen Rick Larsen and Kevin Brady together with senior members of the Administration, officials, business leaders and other influential members of New Zealand’s American based constituency. The New Zealand delegation comprised Ministers, representatives of the Opposition, senior officials, together with many of New Zealand’s business leaders.
The major focus of each Forum has been the Asia Pacific region and new opportunities for both countries arising from the region’s significant growth. Participants left the Forums with a greater awareness of their shared interests. The 2009 Forum took place against a very different backdrop than its predecessors. The global economic crisis changed markedly the face of the world economy and global prosperity. It brought into sharp focus both the opportunities and pitfalls of a globalised world. The 2009 Forum provided an opportunity to discuss the new global environment and to build links between new governments in both countries. The gravity of the economic crisis and its aftermath requires governments and business to work together to develop enduring architecture that can promote long-term economic growth and stability. President Obama’s decision in November 2009 to join New Zealand and six other partners in negotiating an expanded Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) recognises the importance of trade and investment links across the Asia Pacific region. There are many other opportunities for both the US and New Zealand, working together and in the wider region, to address mutual concerns.
The 2011 Forum once again focused the attention of thought-leaders from both countries on ways in which the two countries can work together. In a balanced, non-partisan atmosphere, and under the theme of “The Power of Partnering: Global Challenges and the Role of the US-NZ Partnership”, the Forum discussed a number of big ideas for addressing new and emerging challenges. It considered also the future development of the relationship informed by the research undertaken by CSIS in Washington. As with earlier Forum events, the 2011 event facilitated the deepening of personal ties among those attending the event and served to motivate an already influential group of advocates from each country with a common agenda to promote closer relations between New Zealanders and Americans.