May 30, 2011

Another high level NZ, USA pow-wow on the horizon

The Foreign Ministers of both Aotearoa New Zealand and the United States of America have recently had a discussion in Washington about Fiji, notably the recent developments regarding Bainimarama's tiff with Tonga.

It is obviously a preparatory pow-wow for each of their bosses who will meet to discuss Fiji although in a larger regional context.
NZ PM to visit White House
May 18, 2011

New Zealand Prime Minister John Key has been invited to visit United States President Barack Obama at the White House.

Foreign Minister Murray McCully announced the invitation on Wednesday (NZ/Australian time) after he met US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in Washington.

Back in New Zealand, Key said it was likely he would head to the US in the next couple of months.

"Hopefully we can make that happen, get a date that suits the president," Key said.

McCully said the traffic would be two-way, with a large US delegation expected for post Pacific Islands Forum dialogue in New Zealand on September 9.

He expected many in the group to come along to Rugby World Cup games.

McCully and Clinton also talked about New Zealand's role in Afghanistan and discussed Pacific affairs, including the latest Fiji controversy.

Questions have been raised about the Fijian regime's stability following public statements by ex-Fiji Royal Military Force chief of staff Lieutenant Colonel Ratu Tevita Uluilakeba Mara, who fled to Tonga after being charged with sedition.

Commodore Frank Bainimarama, Fiji's self-appointed prime minister who came into power following a coup in 2006, has declared the former army commander a fugitive and accused the Royal Tongan Navy of illegally picking him up in a patrol boat in Fijian waters last week.

Fiji has begun a legal process to extradite Mara.

Mara on Tuesday questioned why New Zealand and Australia were not doing more to stop the commodore.

McCully said Clinton was interested in New Zealand's perspective.

"They were happy to accept our interpretation that this meant things had become more difficult for the commodore inside Fiji, that one of his key players had deserted him for pretty solid reasons but also that we were going to need to see some common sense prevail to reduce tension within the region.

"To that extent, I think we all admire the very sensible stance being adopted by the Tongan Prime Minister who rather than being goaded into conflict is talking about proper legal process and independent courts."

McCully and US Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano signed a joint statement on global supply chain security.

The countries agreed to pursue customs and border initiatives aimed at protecting the supply chain system from terrorism.

McCully said New Zealand welcomed improved standards and practices around export supplies and border security.

The arrangement also streamlined international standards to facilitate trade and will further extend the recently improved Mutual Recognition Arrangement (MRA).

Under the MRA members of the New Zealand's Secure Exports Scheme have greater certainty about the movement of their goods through the United States border and quicker access to the United States market, a benefit that no other country in the world has.

Meanwhile, the US NZ councils in Washington and Auckland, at their annual meeting, unveiled a joint plan to guide their co-operation over the next three years.

The plan covers five areas: building on the momentum of the Partnership Forum; fostering closer economic ties; supporting the Trans Pacific Partnership; collaborating with APEC; and advancing strong regional alliances.

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