US-NZ 2011 Partnership Forum

  • Murray McCully
Foreign Affairs

“The road ahead: shaping the next decade of US/NZ cooperation”

May I start by extending a warm welcome to Assistant Secretary of State Kurt Campbell; Members of the United States Congress, distinguished delegates from both this and the other side of the Pacific.

The first decade of the 21st century ended on a high note for US/NZ relations with a successful visit by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and signature of the Wellington Declaration on 4 November 2010.

I would like to begin my remarks today by acknowledging the fact that the Wellington Declaration represents the culmination of a lot of work by a lot of people.

I want to underline in particular our appreciation for the stalwart support and considerable efforts of friends like Richard Armitage and Chris Hill, who have invested considerable personal capital during the difficult times in NZ-US relations.

I thank the members of the US/NZ Partnership Forum for the role each of you has played in bringing the US/NZ relationship to where it is today: a vigorous and dynamic strategic partnership that we want to see flourish even further in this second decade of the 21st century.

The Wellington Declaration commits us to a new strategic partnership with two fundamental elements: a new focus on practical cooperation on security and other challenges in the Asia-Pacific region; and enhanced political and subject expert dialogue on global challenges as diverse as climate change, terrorism and nuclear proliferation.

I want to talk today about how we can work together to shape the next decade of US/NZ cooperation in the 21st century.
We need to see the Wellington Declaration as a basis for greater ambition, rather than a cause of complacency.

The Wellington Declaration is first and foremost a strategic partnership.

So I want to talk first about the strategic environment we’re likely to face together in the next ten years – with a focus on our own backyard in the Asia Pacific region.

Let me first reiterate how much we welcome the United States’ decision to join the East Asia Summit.

Recent years have seen the intensity of New Zealand’s commercial relationships in Asia grow beyond anything that most could have predicted only a few years ago.

Free trade deals, either now in operation or under negotiation, provide the framework for an even greater level of engagement in trade and economic relations.

With those trading relationships, closer ties of almost every type have been created.

New Zealand now has a huge stake in the stability and security of Asia and we have tried to reflect this in our participation in the evolving architecture of the region.

The decision of the United States to join the EAS brings with it a potential for those regional bodies to play an even greater and more effective role in delivering a stable prosperous region, providing a platform for improved economic prospects for all of its partners.

There is now an annual vehicle for dialogue between major players in the region, that can both harvest the opportunities and diffuse the tensions.

We also welcome the increased presence of the US in the Pacific region.

We all know that swaying palm trees and white sands don’t cancel out the serious problems that exist in the Pacific.
Beyond the picture postcards are a number of countries facing sub-Saharan levels of poverty, where the Millennium Development Goals remain well out of reach.

Political instability is a fact of life and our efforts to persuade Fiji not to change governments at the point of a gun have yet to bear fruit.

Our close cooperation with the United States and the rest of the international community on the question of Fiji is vital if democracy is to be restored to the Fijian people.

We also want to work increasingly closely with the US on marine resource protection to safeguard the Pacific’s most valuable economic asset - tuna.

For many of our small Pacific neighbours, their exclusive economic zones are one of their most significant economic assets.

While approximately $2 billion of fish is legally taken from the zone of the 14 Forum nations, too little of the benefit flows to those countries themselves.
And about another $400 million a year of fish is taken illegally from their zones.

New Zealand is the largest provider of aerial surveillance of Pacific Island Economic Exclusion Zones, and the US Coastguard is a stalwart and pragmatic partner in those efforts.

I believe the time has come for New Zealand, the US and Australia to dramatically step up our collective surveillance activity in the region, to provide a comprehensive assault on illegal activity within our region.

At the same time, the US is also one of the most significant fishing nations in Pacific Island economic zones.

The US Tuna Treaty underpins this fishing access and is currently worth approximately US$24 million (NZ$32 million) to the Pacific.

We are in the throes of renegotiating the treaty and we are hopeful of concluding a new agreement within the next two years that will help the Pacific to maximise the economic returns from its fishery.

But we must also recognise that the Pacific is the last major fishery on the planet that has not been exploited beyond the point of sustainability.

We both have a major responsibility to our neighbours to ensure that sustainable management practises are put in place soon.

We are fast running out of time.

The vast distances and isolation of the Pacific also makes it an attractive base for trans-national crime.

Drug smuggling in particular appears to be on the increase.

In December, the Australian Federal Police arrested a number of individuals following an investigation into an alleged conspiracy to import 690 kilograms of cocaine into Australia through Tonga.

This follows a seizure of 17 kilos of methamphetamine in Tonga in 2009.

These drugs are clearly not intended for domestic markets in the Pacific, and we are determined to work closely with the US Coastguard and our Australian, French and Pacific colleagues to stamp out this kind of illegal activity.

The Pacific region is also one that remains vulnerable to the effects of tsunamis. New Zealand has committed to continuing to work with five Pacific Island countries - Samoa, Niue, Tokelau, Tonga and the Cook Islands - over the next three years to strengthen their disaster risk management; including their ability to respond to tsunamis.

It rarely hits the headlines but there is constant and excellent operational cooperation between NZ and the US in the Pacific region.

The rescue of an i-Kiribati fishing family in November last year is a good example.

Close – and habitual – coordination between New Zealand Defence Force personnel and US Coastguard meant that as soon as the family was reported missing, a New Zealand P3 Orion was able to find their boat and relay its location to a US Coastguard cutter that went and rescued the family.

In 2011 the relationship between our two countries is poised to make a truly significant difference in regional trade.

The Trans Pacific Partnership is a great example of this intersection of shared values and strategic interests.

You don’t need a crystal ball to work out that economic regionalism is well and truly on the up and will dominate the way we do business in the years ahead.

That is why a major focus for New Zealand and US trade negotiators is the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement.

It is clear that all nine countries involved are committed to a high quality agreement that will provide a new platform for regional economic integration.

That is an exciting prospect for our exporters and investors.

I’m focusing mainly today on our bilateral links for obvious reasons.
But I would like also to register the importance New Zealand attaches to full involvement in multilateral forums.

We welcome the commitment of President Obama’s government to meaningful engagement in multilateral political, economic and security forums both at global and regional levels.

The Wellington Declaration provides a stronger basis for our two countries to work cooperatively in these forums.

However, I want to emphasise that the Wellington Declaration doesn’t have magical powers of its own.

We politicians are in the business of providing frameworks.

The Wellington Declaration is just that - a framework that I hope will provide the basis for, not just politicians and officials, but business leaders, academics and others to find increasingly creative ways in which we can work together.

I was pleased to see evidence of this sort of creative thinking in the study recently published by the Center for Strategic and International Studies, “Pacific Partners: the Future of US/NZ Relations.”

Much of what is recommended in the study we already have underway. And I’m certainly not going to disagree with the case it makes for the benefits to both countries from a speedy conclusion to the TPP negotiations.

I want to urge you, too, as the champions of the US/NZ strategic partnership, to be innovative – and confident that our government is committed to enabling new and deeper cooperation between New Zealand and the US.

In less than 200 days, New Zealand will begin hosting the largest event ever to come to our shores – the Rugby World Cup.

Let me say how delighted we are that the United States has qualified amongst the 20 teams that will come to New Zealand for a 6 week long tournament that ranks as the third largest sporting event on the international calendar.

We are delighted to be hosting the Pacific Forum Leaders’ meeting in the days leading up to the tournament, and to be hosting the post-Forum dialogue on the day of the opening match between our All Blacks and Tonga on 9 September.

Having heard glowing reports, not all of them from him, of Kurt Campbell’s prowess on the rugby field during his university days in the UK we would expect to enjoy his company for this occasion, as we will the company of many leaders from around the world.

We are delighted to be here in Christchurch with such a distinguished and senior gathering of political and business leaders from the United States.

Let me conclude today by thanking you all once more for the role each of you plays in making New Zealand’s relationship with the US what it is: a dynamic, diverse and exciting strategic partnership for the 21st century and beyond.