Q+A: PANEL DISCUSSION, HOSTED BY SHANE TAURIMA, IN REPSONSE TO MIKE MOORE AND MIKE GREEN INTERVIEW
SHANE Jennifer, let's begin with you. How would you describe our current relationship with the US?
JENNIFER CURTIN, political scientist Well, I'd say it's very solid, and it's really come a long way over the last 10 years, and Obama has really enhanced it in the work that he's done. I mean, the visit by the Secretary of Defense Panetta earlier this year was really important and the defence concessions that were given to New Zealand, particularly around military-to-military interactions and access for New Zealanders to US bases on a case-by-case basis was even seen by the United States forces here - some in the forces - as too much of a concession. So the fact that they've engaged in this kind of way with additional diplomatic ties going on really signifies something very strong, I think.
SHANE Do you agree with that, Richard? When you hear Leon Panetta say that the US will do anything, basically, to get closer to NZ, what does that say to you?
RICHARD ADAMS, Guardian correspondent Well, you know, America's a big country and New Zealand's a small country. The best thing that could happen for New Zealand would be if the Hobbit movie was really good. That would help. But otherwise-
SHANE Does that mean we don't count? We're irrelevant?
RICHARD No, it's not that we don't count.
SHANE Or is it putting into perspective?
RICHARD It's not that we don't count. With issues like Iran and China, you know, America will be looking for support, especially in relation to China, where it can get it in the region, and New Zealand certainly will be important in that regard.
SHANE Do you agree with that, Peter Watson?
PETER WATSON, trade consultant That is absolutely correct. New Zealand has consolidated its strong relationship with the United States over the last four years and more, and that's- there's a relationship status now that is really quite significant, and New Zealand's role here in Washington has really consolidated and the United States will continue to look, therefore, to New Zealand for their views on this.
SHANE But just how significant is it, or are they just keeping us in their back pocket come a rainy day?
PETER The fact of the matter is that you have to see this in the continuity of the historical relationship. Interestingly enough, the United States had a consul in New Zealand before the British did, interestingly enough. That continuity of relationship is only interrupted by some rather modest restrictions on New Zealand, for the time that they existed. And, you know, that relationship has been restored to its fully robust and historical role. So there's nothing new about this, and there's nothing sort of manipulative about it. It's just restoring the former significance of the relationship.
SHANE Richard, should we be concerned about being so close to America?
RICHARD That's a very interesting question. I mean, there may come a point where, if relations between China and the US fray - which could happen in the next four years or subsequently - there may come a point at which New Zealand might have to make some difficult decisions about who it sides with, depending on the subject matter. So that could be an issue, but I couldn't predict precisely what they could be.
SHANE Because then of course, Jennifer, we've got the Middle East, and that's bubbling away, isn't it?
JENNIFER Yes, I think even though- Mike was right when he talked about even though they've called it a pivot, basically they want to reduce their expenditure on warfare, and they want to do that strategically and pragmatically, and one way of doing it is to focus on the Middle East, but also to shore up their bilateral relationships that have been traditional to them in them in the past. And I would also say that really the US has something to be thankful for in terms of its relationship with New Zealand, because - because of our strategic involvement that was small but important in Afghanistan - the US have recognised that that was an important part of the way in which they dealt with Afghanistan.
SHANE Peter Watson, what about the change of the guard, if you like? There's some key personnel that will be moving. We're going to be seeing some different faces. How important is that?
PETER Critical. The fact of the matter is, as Chris Liddell said, they were thinking about massive transition and personnel change in the event that there had been a change of party, but the reality is, in fact, even under the continuity of a second term, we will see significant rotation of positions of very significant importance to New Zealand.
SHANE Like Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is on her way out shortly. Who are you tipping to replace her?
PETER Ooh, I would not want to make that call. I suspect Susan- Ambassador Rice in the UN would be interested in assuming that responsibility.
SHANE And of course the other is John Kerry.
PETER Very, very highly skilled and qualified, clearly. So you've got good people there, but I'm also thinking of the second-tier people who are directly responsible for New Zealand policy. For example, Dr Kurt Campbell, current Assistant Secretary of State of East Asia-Pacific - a very strong support of the bilateral relationship. He's been there four years. This is a normal rotation cycle. Similarly, you could think about the United States trade representative, possibly rotational. Some of the-
SHANE And on that point of trade - trade deal. Can we expect a trade deal, do you think, Richard?
RICHARD Well, I think as the US economy improves, I think the political winds will be much more favourable for a trade deal. It would have been much more difficult in the last four years. It's very difficult for US politicians to go forward with trade deals when the economy is not performing very well.
SHANE So they need to get their books in order first?
RICHARD Well, when the economy's doing better, then the public are more receptive to trade deals.
SHANE And so how do you think the next four years is going to go for Barack Obama, Jennifer?
JENNIFER I think he's going to be busy creating legacies as well as doing- This is his chance to do good policy and to really play hardball, as well as consensus politics. But he has to be a better communicator in terms of selling the policies that he's interested in. He was a bit quiet in his first term. But he's got the experience now and he's comfortable in the job, and so I think I think looking forward this could be a very good term for him.
SHANE You're nodding at that, Peter, but very quickly - the trade deal. Do you think we're going to get it?
PETER Yes, we will, within this term. The only issue against us, frankly, is the number of people who are hoping to get on board, and we have to ensure that we get the core in the group and then move on later.