Speeches and Articles

Chairman’s report to the 2011 AGM

21 November 2011

I am pleased to report on the Council’s activities for the 2010-11 year. This is my eighth report as Chairman of the Council.  With the announcement at APEC in Honolulu of the broad outlines of the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) we are now at long last moving more deliberately towards the Council’s long standing goal of an FTA between New Zealand and the United States.

State of the relationship

2011 has been another significant year for the relationship.  Highlights included the visit of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to New Zealand last November, the 4th US NZ Partnership Forum in February, the visit by the Prime Minister, Rt Hon John Key, to the United States in July and latterly the announcement on TPP.

4th US NZ Partnership Forum

The US NZ Partnership Forum held in Christchurch from 20-22 February 2011 was widely regarded as having achieved its key goals and raised the bar yet again for this important event in the relationship.  The Forum met under the theme “The Power of Partnering: Global Challenges and the Future of the USNZ Partnership”. High-level delegations from both sides attended including the US Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, Kurt Campbell; Assistant Secretary of Homeland Security, Mariko Silver; a seven-strong member Congressional Delegation led by Congressman Donald Manzullo; together with the New Zealand Prime Minister, Foreign Minister, Trade Minister, Leader of the Opposition and Mayor of Christchurch.  High-level business representatives included the Chairs or CEOs of many of New Zealand’s leading companies and representatives of major US corporates.  Hon Dr Michael Cullen joined me in co-chairing the event on the New Zealand side while Ambassador Susan Schwab, former United States Trade Representative, co-chaired again on the US side, this time with former Indiana Governor and Senator, Evan Bayh.  A related Future Partners event was held in parallel with the Partnership Forum involving 21 students from both countries.  The Forum was the occasion for a release of a major report into the relationship -  “Pacific Partners” -  commissioned by the two Councils and prepared by CSIS and NZIIA.

Unfortunately, the Partnership Forum came to an abrupt end when a major earthquake hit Christchurch at 12.51pm on Tuesday 22 February 2011. This experience was traumatic for delegates and others involved in the event management. Fortunately no-one associated with the event was seriously injured and a large majority of delegates, organisers and young people attending the Future Partners Forum were able to be evacuated out of Christchurch later the same day.  A major effort was mounted to return belongings of delegates left behind in Christchurch.  The concerns of both Councils and all delegates were conveyed to the Mayor and people of Christchurch who had so warmly welcomed delegates to their beautiful city.  A expression of the warmth of the relationship between our two countries was the generousity of our US friends in organising a fund raising effort in the US and passing on a signifant cheque the recovery effort.  Many of us will keep strong memories of the 2011 Partnership Forum.

TPP Negotiations

By the time of the APEC Leaders Summit earlier this month, nine rounds of TPP negotiations had been held.  The broad outlines of TPP released on 12 November and the declared intention of Japan, Canada and Mexico to join the negotation all exceeded expectations.  While a number of very sensitive issues still need to be worked through, substantial progress has been made in a numnber of areas. 

The Council has worked throughout the year to co-ordinate business support for government negotiating efforts at the New Zealand end and has participated in an organised stakeholder activities during the negotiations held in Auckland, Chicago and at APEC in Honolulu.  As we head into 2012 efforts in support of the TPP negotiations will remain a key focus for the Council.

Other areas of cooperation

Efforts continue to increase cooperation between the United States and New Zealand across a range of fronts.  Real progress has been made in enhancing the defence and security cooperation relationship since constraints were relaxed following a US review of the  relationship in early 2010.  The importance of this aspect of the relationship was highlighted in the Wellington Declaration signed in November 2010 which had a strong focus on strategic cooperation in the Pacific. 

Council operations

The Board has continued to meet four times a year.  I am grateful to my colleagues for their support, interest in, and contribution to, the work of the Council.  During the year we were pleased to welcome Meat Industry Association Chairman, Bill Falconer, to the Board. Jack Stephens, was replaced by Tim Green as NZTE representative.  We also express our thanks to Stephen Collins who is stepping down from the Board having made a significant contribution over a number of years. We continue to value the involvement of all members of our Advisory Board and thank the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade for its continuing funding and advice and the Embassies in Wellington and Washington for their valuable assistance. 

The Board has been able to secure renewed sponsorship from almost all of our existing supporters for which we are very grateful.  We have been particularly pleased to welcome new members, Meat Industry Association, Christchurch Engine Centre, University of Canterbury, Tait Radio Communications, Westland Milk Products and the Gallagher Group.  We are deeply grateful for the efforts of our Executive Team, Stephen Jacobi and Gabrielle Rush and  valued the assistance of Board Member Fiona Cooper Clarke in carrying out a range of functions for the Council over the past 12 months.  A high level of public advocacy of the relationship has been maintained through regular press articles and speeches and through our informative website (www.nzuscouncil.com). 

The Year Ahead

As we look forward to 2012, I am very positive about the continuing evolution of New Zealand’s relationship with the United States and the role the Council plays in advancing it.  The Council will celebrate its 10th anniversary with a conference in March 2012 which take stock of the achievements of the Council and progress towards an FTA in the context of TPP.

I take this opportunity to thank my friend John Mullen for his outstanding leadership of the United States New Zealand Council since March 2004.  In the years since that time, the New Zealand United States relationship has transformed and this is due in no small part to the efforts of John and other long term members of the USNZ Council in Washington.  As we wish John well for his future challenges, we welcome Bill Maroni as the incoming President of the USNZ Council.  My fellow board members and I look forward to working closely with Bill as we begin planning for another Partnership Forum to be held in 2013 in Washington.

The past year will be a memorable one for many reasons not least of which being the bond formed by colleagues from both New Zealand and the United States in the aftermath of the devastating earthquake in Christchurch. The strength of this bond was demonstrated by the very generous donations to the people of Christchurch that USNZ Council members organised.

 The world economy continues to be very worrisome and long term recovery will require very mature leadership in major world economies. On current evidence sustained growth is still a way off. This global uncertainty reinforces the merit of the work of the Councils and in that space there is much to celebrate as we witness the rapidly expanding relationship between the United States and New Zealand. The contribution of the Council in advocating both here in New Zealand and among wider TPP partners for a comprehensive, high quality conclusion to the negotiations is recognised.  That TPP is now a realistic prospect reflects the vision, commitment and hard work of many in the Council and we look forward to maintaining this effort as TPP is brought to fruition.

Rt Hon James Bolger ONZ

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