Academic journal article New Zealand International Review

Having Our Cake and Eating It Too: Stephen Jacobi Looks at Prospects for New Zealand's Relationship with the United States

Academic journal article New Zealand International Review

Having Our Cake and Eating It Too: Stephen Jacobi Looks at Prospects for New Zealand's Relationship with the United States

Article excerpt

What's next for New Zealand's relationship with the United States? The question is an appropriate one at a time when the relationship seems--at long last--to be on a much firmer footing than it has for many years. Credit is due to the New Zealand government for relentlessly pursuing the goal of relationship-building with visits to Washington by Winston Peters in July 2006 and Prime Minister Helen Clark last March. Credit is also due to the US government for its reassessment of the relationship, initiated by Assistant Secretary of State Chris Hill, and now seemingly endorsed at the highest level of the administration.

Others have played a part too. The National Opposition has provided bipartisan support for this goal. The National Party's confirmation that it would not seek to repeal the anti-nuclear legislation has certainly been helpful in making clear the basis on which the US administration may be dealing with future New Zealand governments. MPs on both sides of the House have come together in the New Zealand/US Parliamentary Friendship Group, re-established last November.

I am hopeful that a delegation from the Friendship Group will visit Washington later this year to engage with the Friends of New Zealand Congressional Caucus, which itself has a new membership following last year's elections. And the New Zealand United States Council has been active also in helping build the constituency for the relationship in New Zealand. In April 2006 we joined with our Washington-based counterpart, the United States New Zealand Council, in organising the first ever Partnership Forum.

That landmark event brought together key government and business leaders for both countries to talk about strategic issues affecting business in both countries and provided important focus and momentum for expanding the relationship. The event will be repeated in Auckland in September 2007.

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These are the elements that have come together at this time--careful management of the relationship, steadily building high-level contact, wide political and business support, and a lot of hard work by Ambassador Roy Ferguson in Washington and Ambassador William McCormick in Wellington and their teams.

The NZIIA, too, has played a valuable role in providing a forum where the case for a closer relationship with the United States can be discussed. Opening my copy of NZ International Review in March, I was delighted to see the article by Scott Thomson discussing New Zealanders' perceptions of the United States. Noting that perceptions of America have changed during a century and a half of modern New Zealand history, Scott advocates that:

   New Zealand should invest in our own
   distinct position. We should use our affinities
   with the United States to offer a
   developmental option and a bridge between
   our region and our own friend. (1)

That article provides a good place to start assessing the sort of relationship we want with the United States and what we need to be doing to get there. I do so from the perspective of the New Zealand United States Council, a non-partisan organisation funded by both business and the government, which works to promote the strongest possible relationship between New Zealand and the United States.

Essential question

Most assessments of the relationship--and I include my own in this--tend to start with the relationship as it is today. In this article I want to dream a little. What sort of relationship with the United States do we want?

In a speech to the NZIIA branch in Christchurch a few years ago, I suggested that we New Zealanders needed to be more confident in approaching the question of an expanded relationship with the world's remaining super-power and largest consumer market. For some it is as if opening the door to expanded relations with the United States somehow equates with a loss of national identity and sovereignty, a giving up of all we hold sacred. …

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