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US NZ relationship enters a new generation

20 April 2011

The relationship between the United States and New Zealand has taken another step forward following the fourth US NZ Partnership Forum and the outpouring of American sympathy and support in response to the Christchurch earthquake.

Partnership Forum delegates from both the United States and New Zealand met today in a video conference session designed to conclude the event two months after the Forum was interrupted by the Christchurch earthquake.

“Natural disasters like the Christchurch earthquake shake our belief in the future and focus the mind on today’s issues” said NZ US Council Chairman Rt Hon James Bolger.

“But tomorrow we still need to find new ways to grow our economies, create jobs, address climate change, be more sustainable and achieve regional security.”

“The detailed discussions at the Christchurch Partnership Forum on issues like sustainable food production, low carbon growth, trade and investment and security co-operation showed delegates were clearly looking for new approaches. Discussions were free and frank with no dancing around difficult subject matter and a real determination to make concrete progress.”

President of the US NZ Council, John Mullen, said the Forum had focused on the strategic value of the relationship and major global issues.

“Building on the progress that has been made in the relationship since the inaugural Forum in April 2006, the fourth Partnership Forum again showed the power of gathering small, high-level delegations to exchange views, network, and bond. Although the aftermath of the earthquake became the ultimate bonding experience, the delegates uniformly praised the opportunities for more detailed discussion. This broadened the scope of our vision and generated greater dialogue”.

Mr Mullen said the “Pacific Partners” report prepared by CSIS and the NZ Institute of International Affairs and released at the Forum presented a range of innovative ideas on how the relationship can be taken forward.

“The report is serious, scholarly and forward-looking. Some of the recommendations are very achievable, others will be more challenging, but it will be up to the two governments and the people at the Forum to work those through. I have no doubt the desire is there to do that.”

Mr Bolger highlighted the contribution of the 21 future leaders from the United States and New Zealand, which introduced a generational shift at the Forum. The report of the first “Future Partners Forum”, delayed by the earthquake, was finally given to today’s video conference.

“These are outstanding young people that will end up in public and business leadership roles. They challenged and energized the Forum and highlighted new approaches. The Future Partners are now a fundamental part of the Forum process.”

Senior delegates on both sides were also enthusiastic about the Forum’s value.

Telecom New Zealand Chair, Wayne Boyd, said, “This is an incredibly valuable event. We were able to get new perspectives on a range of issues pertinent to the US-NZ relationship but also to the global situation. There is nothing quite like hearing these perspectives in person from global players”

Richard Kirkland, South East Asia President for Lockheed Martin said: “All of the US delegates I have spoken to went away from this Forum with a confirmed desire to ensure our countries remain close both politically and in business. Our shared experience of the tragic earthquake has also created a new bond. Our thoughts remain very much focused on Christchurch.”

Mr Bolger also thanked US delegates for the role they were playing in leading the United States’ generous response to the earthquake. Delegates intend to meet again in Washington DC, following next years’ Presidential election in the United States.

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