PRIME MINISTER KEY: Okay, so good afternoon. Welcome to Ngatipa, the New Zealand residence here in the Cook Islands. It’s been a pleasure for me to host Secretary Clinton and her team for lunch today. It’s always wonderful to have Secretary Clinton in this part of the world. New Zealanders very warmly remember her visit to our country back in 2010 when we signed the Wellington Declaration, which describes in celebrating the strategic partnership of our two countries here. In the almost two years since Secretary Clinton’s visit to New Zealand, the bilateral relationship has gone from strength to strength. Earlier this year, the Wellington Declaration was complemented by the Washington Declaration which underpins our defense relationship.
Secretary Clinton and I discussed a number of areas of cooperation, and I’ll mention just a few. The Secretary’s presence in the Cook Islands and the forum is indicative of her personal commitment to supporting the aspirations and initiatives of Pacific Island countries. As the outgoing chair of the Pacific Islands Forum, New Zealand welcomes and applauds U.S. moves to fully enhance its historically strong engagement with the island nations of the Pacific.
We’ve been pleased to announce this week a number of joint initiatives, including the areas of women’s economic development, clean energy, and maritime surveillance. We discussed Afghanistan. New Zealand has stood alongside the United States as part of an international coalition there since 9/11 when we joined with other countries to tackle the threat posed by al-Qaida and its allies. We’ve endured the terrible loss of life suffered by our coalition partners in Afghanistan, particularly the recent New Zealand and Australian losses and those of the United States.
Secretary Clinton and I discussed the broad range of issues in the Asia Pacific region as we look towards the APEC summit in Russia in around 10 days time. New Zealand warmly supports the United States rebalancing towards the Asia-Pacific and we welcome the opportunities to cooperate further. In that context, we discussed our ongoing efforts to negotiate, alongside a number of other countries, a Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement. Secretary Clinton and I share the goal of securing a high quality, 21st century free trade agreement, which will be of significant benefit to all countries involved, indeed to the region as a whole.
Before passing over to Secretary Clinton, I’d like to convey publicly my personal gratitude for all that she’s done to enhance the relations between our two countries and our two peoples over the past four years. Secretary Clinton – your personal interest and involvement in our country has been greatly appreciated by the New Zealand people. You’ve been great friends to New Zealand and you’re always welcome in our country.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, Prime Minister, thank you very much for the warm welcome that you have provided. As the first U.S. Secretary of State to make this journey, I am especially delighted and honored. I was pleased to meet with leaders of the Pacific Islands Forum, member states, to attend the Pacific Islands Forum, post-forum dialogue where I had a chance to reaffirm the Obama Administration’s commitment to our engagement in the Asia Pacific with an equal emphasis on the Pacific part of that phrase. The United States is very proud to be a Pacific nation, with a long history in this region, and we are committed to be here for the long run.
Today, I’m announcing new programs and new funding to support our friends in this region in three key areas: promoting sustainable economic development and protecting biodiversity; advancing regional security; and supporting women of the Pacific as they reach for greater political, economic, and social opportunities.
To give just a few examples, the United States will work with Kiribati to protect its marine ecosystems and help coastal communities throughout the region adapt to the effects of climate change and to develop renewable energy resources.
We will expand our security partnerships so U.S. ships can be of even greater help in preventing illegal and unregulated fishing, and we will take additional steps to clean up unexploded ordnance in the region, much of it still there from World War Two. We will support the Rarotonga Partnership for the Advancement of Pacific Island Women, launched just today, and I’ll be looking forward to meeting with women from the region later this afternoon.
I’m also very committed to expanding investment and trade in the region, in pursuit of sustainable economic growth. Later today, I’ll meet with local pearl vendors from here in the Cook Islands who are running their businesses while also protecting marine resources.
Obviously, I could go on because there’s a lot to do in this very important region of the world, and there is no doubt that our relationship with New Zealand provides a strong foundation for our engagement across the Pacific. I especially want to thank Prime Minister Key for his leadership in revitalizing the partnership between New Zealand and the United States. As he said, we signed the Wellington Declaration two years ago, and then in June our countries signed the Washington Declaration, which emphasized our defense cooperation.
We are working together on a number of important issues, from establishing security in Afghanistan where Kiwi soldiers have made extraordinary sacrifices. Just recently, the losses are ones that we are equally grieved by and offer our condolences to the families as well as the people of New Zealand. We also are very appreciative of New Zealand’s leadership in addressing climate change and conserving natural resources and opening the doors of opportunity.
In particular, I want to thank the Prime Minister for his government’s support of women across the region. And we’re going to create an exchange program connecting women in the Pacific with women in the Caribbean who work in agriculture so they can learn from each other and understand better how to improve the incomes and opportunities for themselves and their families.
The United States welcomes the chance to work with a broad array of partners in the region –Japan, the European Union, China – we all have an interest in advancing security, prosperity, and opportunity. And as I said this morning, the Pacific is certainly big enough for all of us. So thank you Prime Minister, the United States values our relationship, which celebrated its 70th anniversary this year. We feel a special kinship and closeness to New Zealand and your people and we continue to look, as you said, for our relationship to go from strength to strength. So thank you again for your leadership and partnership.
MODERATOR: Secretary Clinton and Prime Minister Key have kindly allowed two questions from each side. May I remind you to please (inaudible)? We’re going to start with New Zealand and Barbara Dreaver from Television New Zealand.
QUESTION: Good afternoon, Madam Secretary. How concerned is the U.S. that China’s growing influence in the region in terms of how it administers aid, and also its growing links with military (inaudible) in Fiji?
SECRETARY CLINTON: So this is an area that the Prime Minister and I discussed over lunch, and I have to say that we think it is important for the Pacific Island nations to have good relationships with as many partners as possible and that includes China as well as the United States, and we believe there is more that China can do with us, with New Zealand, with Australia, with others, to further sustainable development, improve the health of the people, deal with climate change and the environment, and I look forward to discussing these issues when I am in Beijing next week.
New Zealand sets a good example for the work that we think can be done with China. New Zealand has worked with China on water issues, for example. We want to see more multinational development projects that include the participation of China. And as part of our strategic and economic dialogue with China, we have a section on development. And it’s been my observation over the last four sessions that we have now held that China is becoming more interested in learning from, understanding best practices and cooperating with other countries.
Our policy, as expressed by President Obama and myself many times, is we want a comprehensive, positive, cooperative relationship between the United States and China. We think it is good for our countries, it’s good for our people, and in fact, it’s not only good for this region, it’s good for the world. We’ve invested a lot in our strategic and economic dialogue. We speak very frankly about areas where we do not agree. We both raise issues that the other side would prefer perhaps we not, or they not. But I think our dialogue has moved to a very positive arena because we are able to discuss all matters together.
Now here in the Pacific, we want to see China act in a fair and transparent way. We want to see them play a positive role in navigation and maritime security issues. We want to see them contribute to sustainable development for the people of the Pacific; to protect the precious environment, including the oceans; and to pursue economic activity that will benefit the people.
So we think that there’s a great opportunity to work with China, and we’re going to be looking for more ways to do that.
MODERATOR: Next question.
QUESTION: Thank you, Madam Secretary. If I could follow up first a little bit on the previous question. You mentioned that there was room for cooperation between the United States and China in development – PACOM is here, the Pacific Command – what in the security realm, with so many disputes, not only in the Asia-Pacific, but in the South China Sea, what role can the Pacific Command play in trying to resolve those disputes or to assure China? And just separately – briefly - one major issue here in the South Pacific is climate change. Can you tell the leaders of the Pacific Islands that the United States is doing all that it can to combat climate change?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well Shaun as to the first question, I know Admiral Locklear is here with us and he’s certainly more than capable of speaking for himself about what PACOM is doing. But several things: We are beginning to discuss cooperation with respect to disaster prevention and response. We would like to see China play a role in that. There are a lot of disasters in this region, from earthquakes, which New Zealand knows so well, to tsunamis and cyclones and terrible flooding as we saw in the Philippines just recently. So we think that that is an area that should be explored in more depth.
We also believe, on the aid front, that there is a lot of opportunity for cooperation between us and China. It is something we are modeling after New Zealand. New Zealand has been working on water issues with China, we want to learn the lessons about what worked. PACOM has a great reach in the Pacific and is involved in everything from overseeing our hospital ships to working to train local officials in protecting their environment and protecting their water.
We also know that there’s a real threat from climate change, which gets me to your second question. This is real. I will underscore that. It is one that the leaders of these nations speak about with great passion because they are all very low lying lands and are worried that they’re going to be swamped in the next 10, 20, 30, 40 years. So we understand very well the feelings that the Pacific Island nations have about climate change. And we stand behind our pledges in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change to prompt substantial action to help vulnerable countries adapt.
Among the programs we discussed today was the new coastal community adaptation project. It’s a five-year, $25 million project to help build the resilience of vulnerable coastal communities of the Pacific to withstand extreme weather, and not only in the short run, but rising sea levels over the longer term. USAID, which as you know we brought back to the Pacific and established a headquarters in Papua New Guinea, is contributing $3 million over three years to Germany’s coping with climate change in the Pacific Islands programs. And we’re working continually to develop an international consensus on reducing green house gas emissions, and short lived climate pollutants initiative that I started a year ago. As you know, in part because of the economy, U.S. emissions are the lowest that they’ve been in 20 years.
But look, we know we have more to do, and we have made a commitment, we’re going to stick with our commitment. I hope that we’ll be able to go beyond those commitments in the future.
MODERATOR: Tova O’Brien from TV3.
QUESTION: Madam Secretary, both New Zealand and Australia suffered their greatest losses of life since the Vietnam War in Afghanistan. Do you think the sacrifice was worth it, and do you expect ISAF countries to stand by the United States?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well first, let me say to both New Zealand and Australia, we are deeply grateful for their participation in this coalition effort under ISAF. And we’re also very sorry about their losses as we are at the loss of any of our coalition partners and ourselves. But I think it’s important to stress that both New Zealand and Australia have played a crucial role in the ISAF mission. Their soldiers and civilians are highly regarded.
New Zealand’s contributions are far beyond what one would ordinarily expect of a country the size of New Zealand. Prime Minister Key and I of course discussed Afghanistan today. I also called Prime Minister Gillard to express condolences and exchange views with her. And I’m gratified that despite the challenges we’ve all had, including the losses that we have suffered at the hands of insurgents and turncoats, we are all resolved to see this mission through as the commitments we’ve made would suggest.
I think it’s important to just reflect on the fact that a lot of progress has been made. Any time we lose the lives or see one of our soldiers or civilians – I mean, I lost an aid worker, I have a seriously injured foreign service officer in – at Walter Reed – every time this happens, soldiers and civilians alike. We are reminded of the incredible sacrifice that our nations are making.
But we should also remind ourselves of the progress we have made since we went into this together. Over lunch, the Prime Minister was sharing some statistics from the New Zealand PRT in Bamiyan province that are really impressive in terms of advances in health, education, and infrastructure. So we are committed to seeing this through as we all agreed to at Lisbon, as we reiterated at Chicago, because we cannot afford see Afghanistan turn back into a haven for terrorism that threatens us all. And the work we have done together to prepare the Afghan national security forces to defend themselves and take the security lead is a much greater positive than negative story.
So we offer our condolences, but we also offer our appreciation to the people of New Zealand – soldiers and civilians alike who have been part of this important global effort.
MODERATOR: One last question. Steve Myers from New York Times.
QUESTION: Thank you. Madam Secretary, (inaudible), can you talk a little bit about what seems to be a raging debate in Washington over the designation of the Haqqani Network as a terrorist organization? What is your thinking on the pros and cons of that before the deadline next week? And Prime Minister, if you would, I’d be interested in hearing your thoughts on the prospect of a negotiated settlement with groups like the Haqqani Network or the Taliban as part of the effort to drawing down the war there?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, Steve, I’m not going to comment on any stories about any internal discussions, of course. But I’m aware that I have an obligation to report to Congress. Of course, we will meet that commitment. And I’d like to underscore that we are putting steady pressure on the Haqqanis. That is part of what our military does every single day along with our ISAF partners. We are drawing up their resources, we are targeting their military and intelligence personnel. We are pressing the Pakistanis to step up their own efforts. So we’re already taking action and we’ll have more to say about the specific request from the Congress next week.
PRIME MINISTER KEY: Well first let me say from New Zealand’s point of view, we’ve had two goals when we’ve been in Afghanistan, first has obviously been to try and train and mentor those Afghan nationals who’ve worked alongside us in the form of crisis response unit in the Afghan police. And we’ve done that – so that when we leave Afghanistan which we will be doing in 2013 – that we hope we are leaving the country in a better position to look after its own security.
In terms of any negotiation with the Taliban or with groups in Afghanistan, we fundamentally believe that will ultimately be a matter for the Afghan Government, but they will in the end have to try and find a way through what is a difficult situation and come to a conclusion of how that can best be handled and I wouldn’t be surprised if part of that attempt to deliver greater security in Afghanistan is some discussion. But that’s ultimately a matter for President Karzai.