MR. FITZ-GERALD: Madam Secretary, Melissa (inaudible), Ambassador Huebner, Mayor Parker, distinguished guests, I’m Mark Fitz-Gerald, president of the American Chamber of Commerce, and it’s my pleasure on behalf of AmCham to welcome you, Secretary Clinton, to New Zealand and all of you to this reception and our beautiful city of Christchurch. Apparently, not even the combined efforts of the U.S. State Department and foreign affairs and trade could do anything about the weather, but I do say myself it was stunning – sunny yesterday (inaudible). (Laughter.)
As you are no doubt aware, Madam Secretary, this chamber’s role is to foster strong business networks between our two countries, to be a voice for American business in New Zealand, and to promote overall trade and growth. I am pleased to say that the business relationship is vibrant across a broad range of industries, many of which are represented by people here this afternoon. And while New Zealand is small market, this has been a great place for American companies to do business in over a long period of time.
This activity in turn creates jobs both for Americans and also Kiwis. We look forward to that business-to-business relationship being developed to its fullest potential. In particular, we are excited about the possibilities arising from a successful conclusion of the Trans Pacific Partnership talks in which the U.S. is taking a leadership role and obviously New Zealand has been very active as well, and in what this might do to encourage U.S. and New Zealand export expansion as well as spur trade growth amongst partnership countries around the region.
While we are aware of your very heavy international agenda with a full (inaudible) of global challenges, we are delighted that you have visited us here. We extend you a very warm welcome as a friend and hope that you’ve had a time that’s been both fruitful and enjoyable.
So please join me in welcoming Secretary Clinton to the podium. (Applause.)
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, thank you very, very much. I am delighted to be here. I feel very fortunate even to be in New Zealand and here in Christchurch with all of you because I’ve long wanted to come and this is a special pleasure for me as well as a great opportunity on behalf of my country. I want to thank Mark Fitz-Gerald and Mike Hearn for your leadership of the New Zealand-American Chamber of Commerce. And it’s wonderful to see the cooperation that we have on behalf of business and investment.
Let me start by conveying the best wishes of the American people in the wake of the earthquake that hit here just two months ago. And I know from the reports I’ve received it was a devastating event. But now the people of Christchurch and Canterbury are faced with the task of rebuilding and have done so with great determination and resilience. This is a wonderful statement about what the people here know is important, and the fact that there wasn’t greater damage is a great tribute to your building standards, your construction standards, and the like.
I really appreciated the chance over the last several days to talk about the strategic relationship between our two countries as evidenced in the Wellington Declaration that the foreign minister and I signed yesterday. And now I have this opportunity with you to talk about our trade partnership. And just consider the numbers. The United States is New Zealand’s third largest trading partner in goods. We receive about 25 percent of New Zealand’s total overseas investment, and we in turn provide 18 percent of total foreign investment in New Zealand.
Hundreds of American companies have made their homes here, including well-known names like Pratt & Whitney and Citibank, Microsoft, Exxon-Mobil and so many others. They know what more and more companies are coming to realize, that New Zealand is a great place to do business. And during the past two decades, you have built a competitive economy and the United States has been your partner and supporter in doing so.
We are looking for ways to broaden and deepen our economic ties and build on the strong foundation we already have. And we think that the Trans Pacific Partnership is a very exciting opportunity. This multilateral free trade agreement would bring together nine countries located in the Asia Pacific region – New Zealand and the United States, Australia, Chile, Singapore, Brunei, Peru, Vietnam, and Malaysia. By eliminating most tariffs and other trade barriers, and embracing productive policies on competition, intellectual property, and government procurement, we can spur greater trade and integration not only among the participating countries, but as a spur to the entire region.
The United States announced our interest in joining the TPP two years ago and since then we’ve been engaged in substantive, productive negotiations with the other parties. We look forward to the next round of talks, which will be held here in New Zealand next month. We are committed to making this TPP a strong and effective, quality agreement so it can deliver the best possible results to businesses and consumers.
And the Trans Pacific Partnership is part of a larger commitment by the United States to create more economic growth. Earlier this year, President Obama created the National Export Initiative to help U.S. businesses, especially small businesses, surmount the hurdles that prevent them from entering new export markets. Through this initiative and through trade pacts like the TPP, we are working toward our goal of doubling U.S. exports over the next five years.
We obviously, along with you, see trade as absolutely critical to the economic future of our countries and the world. We know that if it’s done right, it creates jobs, lowers prices, fuels growth, and lifts living standards. So this is a high priority.
And to all those businesses and individuals and organizations like the Chamber who have a hand in supporting the U.S. exports to New Zealand, let me thank you for your role in sustaining an important channel between our countries.
And second, the U.S. Government wants to help. Our Embassy in Wellington plays a frontline role in connecting U.S. businesses in Wellington with potential partners here in New Zealand. Our ambassador is here, right there, so I hope if you haven’t met David you will. Our doors are literally open at the Embassy and we’re looking forward to working with you.
I am excited by the – depending upon the metaphor that the press has used – the cracking of the ice, the melting of the ice, whatever it is, after 25 years a very clear, unequivocal statement between our two governments that – oh, here’s your ambassador too, Ambassador Moore – that we have much more in common than what divides us. And I know that Prime Minister Key and President Obama and I and others in our respective governments are very committed to growing the ties between us and to looking for new opportunities that will be to the benefit of both of our nations.
We highly admire New Zealand and what you have achieved on so many fronts, and we look forward to working with you to make the Wellington Declaration a real platform for action between governments, between private sectors, between civil society, and giving me another excuse to come back sometime in the future. Thank you all very much. (Applause.)
MR. FITZ-GERALD: And might I add you’re always welcome here too. That brings to an end the formal part of this reception. Please stay and join in some refreshments with us. I really want to thank Secretary Clinton for joining us here. We are very honored to be able to host this event this afternoon. And thank you all for coming. (Applause.)