QUESTION: Madam Secretary, thank you for joining us and giving us your time today. I just want to start by looking at the strategic partnership launched yesterday. Has it – in your view, has it simply taken too long to get to that following on from the breakup of ANZUS 26 years ago?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I’m glad that we’re where we are right now. It took 25 years. And I think that we continued to cooperate in many areas, but I wanted formally to essentially end that period and look to the future, and the Wellington Declaration does that.
QUESTION: Is it a vindication of New Zealand’s stance all those years ago?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I think it’s a recognition that two nations, like two people, are not going to agree on everything. But it’s not as though we didn’t continue working together. We work together in Afghanistan, we work on climate change, we work in the Antarctic. We work so closely in so many areas. We have a very vigorous trade and investment relationship. So it was important to put a period on that time and to say, look, in effect we’ve been working together, but now we’re going to look for new opportunities going forward.
QUESTION: Was New Zealand right to take that stance back then, do you think?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, obviously I disagree with it, but that’s up to the people and the Government of New Zealand. But I don’t think a decision made in 1985 should govern our relations in any significant way in 2010.
QUESTION: Just looking at where the ships (inaudible) come into the New Zealand harbors now, would you like to see a return to ships coming back into New Zealand harbors given what was signed yesterday?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, that again is something to be evaluated by the Government and people of New Zealand.
QUESTION: You talked yesterday about military exercises, a return to those. When do you expect – I mean, I know they’ve been happening on a smaller scale.
SECRETARY CLINTON: They have, right.
QUESTION: Whereabouts have they been happening?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, there’s training that goes on with your people in Afghanistan. We have exchanges of military and defense officials. Your defense white paper that was just published made it very clear that New Zealand wants to deepen and broaden that relationship, and we’re very open to it.
QUESTION: And you expect to see more of these exercises?
SECRETARY CLINTON: I would think so. But again, I’m going to leave that to our respective defense experts. They will work through the details of how to operationalize that.
QUESTION: I wanted to ask, what can New Zealand actually offer the region practically? I mean, you’ve talked about the New Zealand-U.S. partnership in the Pacific. What is it that we can do with you in the Pacific?
SECRETARY CLINTON: There are so many areas where we are cooperating, but we need to do even more together. For example, we are working on a renewable energy initiative in the Pacific Islands. You have so many of these small islands totally dependent on imported fuel. That’s economically a dead end, it’s environmentally a dead end, and we can bring the expertise that New Zealand and the United States have already demonstrated with our wind turbine project in Antarctica.
We can work on helping to improve the development prospects. In fact, I’ve talked with your ministers about clean water, waste disposal, healthcare, education, to really demonstrate that the United States and New Zealand together care about the people of the Pacific Islands.
QUESTION: And does the U.S. in any way (inaudible) from that – does the U.S. in any way (inaudible) that it took its eye off the ball in the Pacific, even to say the last ten years, with a focus on the Middle East?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Certainly, that was the perception that I encountered upon becoming Secretary of State, which is the reason why my first trip was to Asia. And I’ve had many consultations with leaders in government, business, and many other walks of life throughout the Asia Pacific region, and many of them say we’re so glad you’re back, we’re so glad you’re engaged, we want to work more closely with you. So the perception was as you describe, but hopefully we have eliminated that.
QUESTION: But perception is reality, isn’t it?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Yes, it is sometimes. That’s right. And that’s why I’ve made a particular point to reach out. And this is my sixth trip to the region. And it’s why we’re trying to have a forward-looking agenda with our friends and partners in the region.
QUESTION: Just a final couple of questions. Huge admission from the President yesterday about perhaps losing sight and losing touch with the American public, an admission that came out of the midterms. Were you surprised at that admission?
SECRETARY CLINTON: No, because the President is a very dedicated leader who really wants the best for the American people and for America to do what we can to help the world. There is a historical pattern that the party of the President loses seats in the first midterm after an inauguration. That was the pattern with my husband in 1994.
QUESTION: This is big. I mean, this is a big touting, isn’t it?
SECRETARY CLINTON: It’s big, but it is not out of the pattern of historical political elections. But what I think the President made very clear was he made decisions which were essential for the well-being of the American people. It may not have been popular to do what had to be done with the stimulus and some of the other actions he took on the economy, but many of us believe it prevented even worse economic consequences. So these things take a while for people to feel them, and I think the President recognizes that we’re just all going to have to redouble our efforts.
QUESTION: Just looking long term, do you still rule out standing for top office, for president –
SECRETARY CLINTON: Yes, I --
QUESTION: -- even as going as far as 2016?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Oh yes, yes. I’m very pleased to be doing what I’m doing as Secretary of State.
QUESTION: And can the prime minister here in New Zealand expect to get a visit at the White House shortly?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Yes, we’re going to be looking to do that as soon as it’s mutually convenient for the prime minister and the President.
QUESTION: And what, that might be in the next year?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Oh yes.
QUESTION: Thank you very much for your time.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you. Nice to see you.
QUESTION: I appreciate your time. Thank you.