Today in Auckland the US NZ Partnership Forum gathers for the sixth time. The event brings together a number of senior representatives from Government, business and academia from both New Zealand and the United States. Our American guests include Assistant Secretary of State Danny Russel and Congressman Erik Paulsen (R-Minnesota).
Significant progress has been made since the first Partnership Forum was convened in April 2006 by the NZ US Council and its Washington based counterpart, the US NZ Council. Nine years later the two countries are closer than ever and co-operating across an unprecedented range of global and regional issues. As we meet in Auckland a conclusion to the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) draws tantalisingly close and with it, the prospect of an even deeper economic relationship.
The theme of this year’s forum – “Pacific Partners – the next generation” – reflects the challenge now before us: how to ensure our co-operation is focused on the future and engages emerging leaders able to take the relationship forward. I am delighted that once again we will be joined by nine “Future Partners”, who will help to convey the next generation theme. They include current and former New Zealand university students who have worked as interns in the US Congress as well as American Fulbright grantees currently studying in New Zealand.
New Zealand’s membership of the United Nations Security Council 2015-16 provides a significant backdrop to this event. At issue will be how two sovereign nations of different size and scale can advance shared interests on political affairs, security policy, sustainable development and stability especially in the Asia Pacific region. To help guide the discussion the Forum will consider a new report from the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in Washington DC. The report explores the current state of relations ranging from politics and security to trade and investment and provides some suggestions in each area for further deepening and expanding co-operation.
At the same time, the forum will hear discussion about prospects for TPP, which have been significantly enhanced by the Congress granting trade negotiating authority to President Obama. Both Councils welcome this progress.
At the last Partnership Forum in Washington DC in May 2013, Deputy Secretary of State William J. Burns stated that; “that there is no more dynamic and consequential part of the world today — and in the decades ahead — for America’s interests, and for the shape of the global system, than the Asia-Pacific. Our relationship with New Zealand and the work we do together is a critical element of our rebalance to the region.”
Right now we have an opportunity to play a part in influencing the future direction of the wider region and, through co-operation with our American friends, to safeguard New Zealand’s longer term interests into the next generation. That’s an opportunity the NZ US Council thinks is worth taking.
Simon Power is chairman of the NZUS Council