“The most influential delegation of American leaders ever to come to New Zealand”, 47 strong, joined 54 distinguished New Zealand colleagues in Auckland, September 9-11, 2007 at the second United States-New Zealand Partnership Forum. Led by Co-Chairs Clayton Yeutter and Tom Vilsack for the United States and Jim Bolger and Mike Moore for New Zealand, the delegations discussed global, regional and bilateral issues related to the Forum theme-“partnership and innovation.”

Participants and the two governments praised the Auckland Forum as a great success. In letters to Council President John Mullen following the Forum, US Ambassador Bill McCormick and NZ Ambassador Roy Ferguson wrote that the Forum has “done a great deal to move the bilateral relationship forward” and has “further added to the positive momentum in the relationship.” These thoughts continue summarized the overriding purpose of the two Councils that organize the Forums and of the Forum itself. The illustrious group of visiting Americans did exactly that-contributing their energy, ideas, experience and influence in this off-the-record dialogue with their NZ counterparts, a virtual “who’s who” in New Zealand business and politics.

Former Prime Minister Helen Clark and Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Chris Hill gave opening keynote addresses. Mr. Hill described the strengthening relationship and increased collaboration between the two countries, adding that the inaugural Forum in which he participated in 2006 “helped spur a significant change in the US-NZ relationship.” Ms. Clark congratulated the two Councils on “organizing this important event” and thanking them for “playing an important role in advocating for the closer bonds between our two democracies and more extensive ties between our economies.”

The United States Delegation included many who have played key roles in the political and economic relationship over the years such as Chris Hill, Rich Armitage, Clayton Yeutter, two former US Ambassadors to New Zealand, Paul Cleveland and Anne Martindell, and Dennis Wilder, Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for East Asian Affairs at the NSC.

On the New Zealand side, delegates included the Leader of the Opposition John Key, Minister of Trade and Defense Phil Goff, Roy Ferguson, New Zealand Ambassador to Washington and Chief Executive of NZ Post John Allen, among many other significant figures in business and politics.

The Delegtions focused on charting a future course for the relationship that covered a range of public policy and private sector issues – commercial, economic, trade, agricultural, financial and security as well as political. US Co-Chair Tom Vilsack, who as Governor had led a productive Iowa trade delegation to New Zealand, brought to the table his long experience as a political leader and administrator, as did former US Senator and Governor of Washington state, Dan Evans.

There was strong and enthusiastic interest in both countries to build on the momentum and to follow up in a number of areas, especially on security, trade, energy and the environment. The enthusiasm stemmed from a number of factors. The remarkable diversity, scope and strength of the two delegations was no doubt primary. The Kiwis remarked over and over how pleased they were on the level and quality of their US guests and the expertise, experience, leadership and passion they brought to the table. Ambassador Armitage epitomized all of these when he was interviewed by the New Zealand Herald on the background and US thinking during the breakup of the ANZUS alliance in the 1980s. He said “This was damned important to us. That’s the point. I mean real important. New Zealand mattered.”

In the end, a remarkable blending of people, place and substance yielded a camaraderie and dialogue that did indeed “move the bilateral relationship forward” and take the importance of the Forum to a new level. In a coda the following evening at the AmCham Awards dinner in Auckland, Prime Minister Clark remarked on “…how far the NZ-US relationship had developed even since the first Partnership Forum was held in the United States early last year. The Forum was a warm, constructive, and collegial meeting- and above all, forward-looking, in line with the tone of the modern, bilateral relationship.”

The sponsors that enabled the Council to bring in the distinguished US Delegation to Auckland and share in the organization of the Forum were AIG, Commonwealth Bank, Google, Microsoft, Pernod Ricard USA, Pratt & Whitney, Saatchi & Saatchi, Time Warner, the US Chamber, and Weyerhaeuser. In addition, Council members Boeing, Fonterra, and Westpac were among the event sponsors.

To see the full 2007 Report on the Partnership Forum, Click here.