US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson NZ visit: addressing “pockets of doubt”

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson will visit Wellington today – the first visit to New Zealand by a member of the Trump Administration.

His visit comes at a time where the world is increasingly uncertain about the role the US will play in global leadership.

Last week in Singapore, Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull spoke of U.S. “global leadership,” noting:

“Some have been concerned that the withdrawal from the Trans-Pacific Partnership and now from the Paris Climate Change Agreement herald a U.S. withdrawal from global leadership. While these decisions are disappointing, we should take care not to rush to interpret an intent to engage on different terms as one not to engage at all.”

The OECD has released a new issue paper, where it notes an “urgently needed” policy response “to make globalisation work for all.” The paper includes references to backlash, uncertainty, downsides, damaging retreat, discontent and stagnation.

Without specifically referencing the Trump administration, the OECD notes the “growing discontent with globalisation” and the fact that “some countries are shifting further away from multilateralism.”

Tillerson’s New Zealand visit follows meetings with Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop and Defence Minister Marise Payne.

During his Australian visit, Tillerson stressed that despite the Trump administration’s withdrawal from key environmental and trade agreements, the relationship between the countries will remain strong.

Yesterday the Washington Post reported Tillerson’s response on what he will do to address “pockets of doubt” about American isolationism under President Trump.

“That’s why we’re here,” he said, stressing that despite the Trump administration’s withdrawal from key environmental and trade agreements, the two countries will remain closely aligned on many issues.

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis cited American lessons learned following isolationism before World War II, citing a quote often attributed to former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill.

“To quote a British observer of us from some years ago: Bear with us. Once we have exhausted all possible alternatives, the Americans will do the right thing” Mattis said. “So, we will still be there. And we will be with you.”

Tillerson’s bilateral talks with Prime Minister Bill English and Foreign Minister Gerry Brownlee are expected to include trade, counter-terrorism, and a request for New Zealand to send more personnel to Afghanistan.

English is expected to express disappointment to Tillerson over Trump’s decision to pull out of the Paris Accord.

Tillerson will meet with Labour leader Andrew Little in the afternoon before departing New Zealand around 3pm.

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