Wednesday, 29 May 2013

US NZ Pacific Partnership Forum - Washington DC Trip Report

The US NZ Pacific Partnership Forum (“the Forum”) – the fifth in the series – takes place at a time when a “new normal” has been established in the bilateral relationship and as the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations linking both countries and ten other partners enter what is hoped will be their concluding phase.

This year’s Forum marked a departure from previous events in that it was completely open to media and had a younger and more diverse attendance. The diverse group of participants included business, government, the media, academic institutions and non-profit organisations to participating in a global dialogue to explore opportunities for economic growth and wider cooperation.

The fourth Forum which was held in Christchurch in 2011, was marred by the tragedy of the Christchurch earthquake on 22 February, which brought the second day event to a premature close. Delegates were successfully evacuated from Christchurch the same day. While none were seriously injured, there were cuts and bruises and some had close escapes. Delegates have retained their interest in Christchurch and a number contributed generously to the American Friends of Christchurch, which has raised over $5 million to the rebuilding effort.

Cooperation between the two countries has accelerated in more recent years with the already strengthening relationship benefiting from the Obama Administration’s re-balance towards the Asia-Pacific. The adoption of the Wellington Declaration during the visit by then Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, to New Zealand in November 2010 marked a significant milestone. It provided a high level, aspirational framework that heralded an increased level of engagement and cooperation across a range of issues and activities. In the defence sphere the 2012 Washington Declaration on Defence Cooperation opened the way for further cooperation as did the announcement, made during the visit by then US Defence Secretary, Leon Panetta, to New Zealand in September 2012, of an end to the ban on New Zealand naval ship visits to US military ports.

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Forum Objectives
The Forum provided participants with a platform to further consolidate and deepen links with our counterparts from government, business, the education sector, commentators and the wider community.

As TPP negotiations approach their most difficult phase, it is critical that New Zealand maintains a sense of momentum in constituency-building efforts, particularly with those in positions of influence.
The ‘revolving door’ nature of Washington compounds this with opinion-formers moving often and easily between positions, and divisions between politicians, officials, business leaders and think-tanks being far more fluid than in New Zealand.

Central to NZ Inc.’s success at the event were the efforts of participants to leverage opportunities to advance a compelling value proposition for New Zealand; to show that, despite its size, New Zealand can play an important and constructive role with the US in advancing shared interests on political affairs, security policy, the environment, sustainable development and stability more widely in the Asia Pacific region. In the trade and economic sphere there a strong case was made that the US has far more to gain than lose from increased engagement with New Zealand and by securing a comprehensive outcome to TPP. Opportunities were also used to take advantage of having so many influential New Zealanders in Washington to further New Zealand’s TPP objectives through activities in the margins of the forum.

Click here to read the full summary.

Under the theme of “Defining What’s Next”, the 2013 Forum focused on business and public policy in the Asia-Pacific region and considered what is next for the region. The Forum combined innovative presentations and discussions on matters concerning trade and economic development, agriculture, creativity and innovation in technology, sustainability, security and foreign policy in the Asia Pacific region as well as globally.

The Forum also included addresses from high-level speakers including
  • William Burns, US Deputy Secretary of State
  • Murray McCully, NZ Minister of Foreign Affairs
  • Robert Zoellick, Former World Bank President
  • Presentation on the future of Christchurch
  • Discussion on TPP - NZ Trade representatives
  • Robert Hormats, Under Secretarty of State for Economic Growth, Energy and the Environment
  • Minister Tim Groser, NZ Minister of Trade
  • Alan Bersin, Assistant Secretary of Homeland Security for International Affairs and Chief Diplomatic Officier
 Conclusion and summary of key points from the Forum:
  • New Zealand and the United States enjoy a close, mature and collaborative strategic partnership – built on a broad platform of shared values and interests.
  • This strategic partnership has benefited from strong political leadership and from a carefully orchestrated, bipartisan relationship improvement process, which started when George W Bush and Helen Clark held power, and continued under the leadership of Barack Obama and John Key.
  • The US-New Zealand relationship is a substantial and longstanding one, but the background against which the Forum takes place is one in which the bilateral relationship, in the wake of the Wellington and Washington declarations in the last few years, has reached a fundamentally new stage.
  • TPP and the importance of Japan coming on board
  • Timeframe for completion of TPP - getting it signed as the first priority and others joining once signed vs holding up
  • Broadening the understanding of TPP amongst business and the consequences of not progressing
  • Extending the relationship by extending the sharing of information between US/NZ across multiple areas including security
  • The increasing importance and priority that the US are putting on the Pacific
  • There is a strong role for the private sector to engage with TPP
Click here to read the full summary.

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