QUESTION: Well, Secretary Clinton, thank you very much for making time for us. We really appreciate that. The headline that you created in one New Zealand newspaper was “Clinton Crushes 25 Years of Ice.”
SECRETARY CLINTON: (Laughter.)
QUESTION: Do you feel that that is what happened yesterday?
SECRETARY CLINTON: I think we’ve always had a very close relationship on so many issues, and it was important for me to demonstrate that very vividly. We work together on everything from climate change and renewable energy to nonproliferation – our soldiers are working together in Afghanistan – and just on so many fronts.
But I do think there was the perhaps lingering impression that for whatever reason, the last 25 years had served as an obstacle to our close partnership, and I’m glad that the ice is crushed or melted or whatever the metaphor might be.
QUESTION: And as you say, metaphor and a lot of symbolism in the news today, but what about the practical impact of this close relationship? You said in Hawaii on the 28th of October, and I’ll quote you, that the United States had created new parameters for military cooperation with New Zealand. What are those new parameters?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, those, of course, will be defined and developed by our defense experts. But New Zealand has just published its own defense white paper, which is very far-ranging in their understanding of the threats that we all face. I have talked with the defense secretary and others in your military establishment, and they’ll be working closely with our counterparts in the United States to put some meat on the bones.
QUESTION: So do you expect there to be more training, I guess, if I can put it --
SECRETARY CLINTON: Yes, I think more training, more sharing of lessons learned. We’re very admiring of New Zealand’s military presence and the peacekeeping work that you do, for example, in the Solomon Islands. That is certainly an impression that is very highly held with respect to the work that you’re doing in the PRT and your special forces in Afghanistan. Earlier today, I went to the War Memorial in Wellington and I met veterans from World War II, Korea, Vietnam, people serving today. And a lot of the World War II veterans were telling me that they had flown with American squadrons, they had trained with American service members.
So I think that there is a closeness, but we need to update it. We need to make sure that we’re looking toward the future, not the past.
QUESTION: And given that closeness, why not simply lift the presidential directive and resume business as usual in terms of military training?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, we’re moving in a very positive direction, but I know there are sensitivities that exist in your country and mine. And we want to be sure we’re on very firm ground so that the steps we take are both warranted and well regarded.
QUESTION: Before I leave that subject of the sensitive ground, the nuclear issue, as far as I understand it, U.S. Navy warships don’t carry nuclear weapons. It’s the nuclear power that prevents them from coming into New Zealand waters. Now, given the widespread use of nuclear energy – in fact, even as a clean energy in this age of climate change, do you find it a little bit amusing that New Zealand refuses to have entry from U.S. warships which have nuclear power?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, that’s, of course, a decision for New Zealand to make. But our ships that are nuclear-powered have proven over time to be very reliable, very safe, and we’re proud of their record. But again, we’re taking this on an ongoing evaluative basis, so let’s look toward the future.
QUESTION: Does that mean you would like to see the return of a U.S. Navy ship?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, that’s something that is really up to the Government and people of New Zealand.
QUESTION: Let’s look at an area where we do have more cooperation, I guess, and that is Afghanistan. New Zealand’s special forces troops are in Kabul and due to pull out in March of next year. Would you like them to stay longer?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, of course, we would like them, if that’s possible. But again, that’s a decision for New Zealand because they are very highly regarded. They work extremely professionally, along with our troops and other NATO-ISAF members.
We’re making progress on the ground. I think that the operational integration of the buildup in troops that the United States has made along with some of our other partners has demonstrated a capacity to really change the situation there. So we have a high regard for New Zealand and the troops that you deploy there. And of course, we would like them to stay as long as you have them stay.
QUESTION: Was there any discussion with that – with our prime minister during your visit? Did you put the case to the prime minister that perhaps they could stay longer?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, again, it’s a decision of the Government and people of New Zealand, but I certainly praised their performance and expressed to the prime minister how grateful both our military and civilian officials are at the work that is being done by the troops from New Zealand.
QUESTION: Just in the last couple of minutes that we have, I’d like to turn to trade. New Zealand has free trade agreements with China. It’s beginning negotiations with Russia. I mean, in this time where those former communist countries have opened up their economies to New Zealand, some in New Zealand would find it unusual that America – that we share such close historical and cultural ties – has rebuffed New Zealand attempts to have a free trade agreement with the United States. What would be your response to that?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, first of all, we have such a vigorous trade relationship. I don't know the exact figures, but a significant percentage of all of New Zealand’s exports go to the United States. In return, we have many of our companies – excuse me – operating here in New Zealand employing the citizens of this country. And we’re working together on what we think is a very exciting development, the Trans Pacific Partnership, which will be a multi-country trade agreement.
We both have decided to work on that first. That doesn’t rule in, rule out any kind of bilateral agreement. But given how strong our relationship already is, opening up markets across the Pacific to each of us simultaneously through the TPP, we think, makes a great deal of sense.
QUESTION: Just finally, if I can turn briefly to domestic politics, it seems almost incomprehensible at this great distance that the euphoria which accompanied President Obama’s victory in 2008 has seemingly evaporated in the midterm elections. Why has that happened?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, of course, we have a historical pattern of this happening, that the party of the President loses seats in the first midterm election. So in that respect, this is not at all out of the ordinary. I remember very well it happened to my husband back in 1994. That doesn’t make it any easier and it’s deeply saddening to see good people lose their congressional seats.
But it is part of a historical pattern, and certainly I know that, as the President said in his press conference, he’s going to work hard the next two years to build a strong relationship with the Congress, with the new leaders to get things done for our country.
QUESTION: A final question: You’re in a country which has had two female prime ministers. You’re heading to a country --
SECRETARY CLINTON: (Laughter.)
QUESTION: -- that has a female prime minister. Is your country ready for a female president?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I hope so. It should be and --
QUESTION: Could that be you?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, not me, but it will be someone. And it is nice coming to countries that have already proven that they can elect a woman to the highest governing positions that they have in their systems.
QUESTION: That’s a good place to leave it. Secretary Clinton, thanks very much for your time.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Good to talk to you. Thank you.