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Remarks of Franklin L. Lavin
Under Secretary of Commerce for International Trade
United States – New Zealand Partnership Forum
April 21, 2006

“Different Paths to Common Values”

(as prepared)

Thank you Clayton Yeutter for that kind introduction. I want to thank the United States – New Zealand Council for inviting me to be with you today.

Good morning, Minister Goff, U.S. Ambassador Bill McCormick, Ambassador Roy Ferguson, distinguished members of the New Zealand delegation, and colleagues.

I am pleased to have this opportunity to share my thoughts on how the U.S. and New Zealand can work more closely together, be it in the region or within the bilateral relationship. This morning, let me touch on the good news in our trade ties, address some patterns in the Asian region, and offer some general thoughts on the nature of the relationship.

In the first instance, anyone who examines U.S.-New Zealand prospects ought to take a very positive view. Our countries are remarkably close friends for being so far apart in distance. We both share a similar “can do” spirit of optimism and endless possibility that stems from our pioneer roots. We each have our own unique twist to the English language. Also, Americans share the same taste for Peter Jackson films. In fact, the Department of Commerce even uses footage from “King Kong” in our tourism advertising in the U.K. And, no, we didn’t pirate it.

The United States and New Zealand are long-time partners in the defense of freedom and the promotion of modern democratic values. Americans and Kiwis stand together side-by-side now in Afghanistan in our support for international peace and security as they have done in other parts of the world over the past century.

The Government and people of New Zealand were generous in their support after Hurricane Katrina last year and for their response to the Indonesian Tsunami the year before. New Zealanders are good friends in time of need.

That is not to say we have always agreed and we ought to talk about areas of disagreement as well. But there are fundamental strengths in our friendship. At base, both New Zealand and the United States, as good Pacific friends, share a commitment to the principles of democracy, freedom and peace. We value New Zealand’s role in peacekeeping in the Pacific, particularly in East Timor and the Solomon Islands.

We work together in environmental protection, climate-change issues, oceans and fisheries, in Antarctica, and in other areas in science and technology. We are also partners together in law enforcement issues such as anti-terror financing, money laundering, and trafficking in persons and I’m sure that my friend Paula Dobriansky will be discussing that with you.

On trade issues, we are grateful for New Zealand’s leadership in support of global free trade and we value working together in the Doha Round to knock down barriers to trade in agriculture and ensure that the round results in new market access.

In our own trading relations there is significant good news. In the last decade, trade in goods between our countries increased 81%. In 2005, the United States – New Zealand trade increased by 15% from 2004 with total trade merchandise trade equaling over $5.8 billion. I’m pleased to say that 2005 U.S. goods exports to New Zealand were up almost 28% over 2004.

These figures are consistent with a shifting pattern in U.S. trade reflecting the importance of the Pacific Basin to America. Over a century ago, then Secretary of State John Hay declared that the Mediterranean was the "ocean" of the past, the Atlantic the ocean of the present, and the Pacific the ocean of the future. Well, the future is now. In fact, for over twenty years our trade across the Pacific has been greater than our trade across the Atlantic.

The Nature of the relationship

With that in mind, we are here today to examine the nature and future of our relationship. To my mind, the title of this lecture, “Common values” raises more questions than it answers. Yes we have common values, but what does that mean for bilateral relations? Or are common values a substitute for a relationship? Because we have shared values, this approach holds, we do not need to think through roles and obligations.

To my mind, we should take due pride in our common values, but there are some potential risks in this sort of emphasis as well. One risk is that the discussion could over-emphasize historical sentiment and collaboration and under-emphasize a hard nose understanding of where our two countries stand. Another potential problem is that we fail to appreciate that although values are shared, expectations are adjusted accordingly. We should not be satisfied in noting that our countries have more in common with each other than other countries because we expect much more from each other than from each other.

The U.S. and New Zealand collaborate on a wide range of issues, but is that how one describes a relationship or is that how one describes a series of activities that in fact is not a relationship? Is “relationship” a sort of casual way of saying “friendship,” meaning that we wish the best for each other and we enjoy each other’s company, but we do not act together with any particular design or broader purpose?

Indeed, we are good friends, and the fact that we are meeting here today tells me that everyone in this room believes either that this good friendship deserves the added value of a relationship, or that the relationship is in place but deserves to be enhanced.

What should the relationship be? It might be easier to describe what it shouldn’t be. It strikes me that there are two fundamental errors that nations need to avoid in good relationships, two ends of the spectrum. The first error is one of “automaticity”. This involves a set of across-the-board, automatic obligations which one nation expects of the other. The error in this is that it carries more of a sense of ownership than a true, mutually beneficial relationship that would leave scope for independent decision making.

The other fundamental error is the opposite of automaticity; it is open architecture. It views all interactions between countries as a la carte. This open architecture allows each country to undertake interactions purely at its pleasure, with no sense of obligation to the other party. In other words, interactions are simply an aggregate of one-off decisions. It is a happy coincidence when we cooperate but no inference should be drawn from it. This is closer to Brownian motion than a relationship.

Somewhere between the two extremes lies a healthy relationship where there is a good degree of mutuality, predictability and integration. There is an understanding of costs and benefits of this relationship and each country understands that every single interaction does not have to redound to its immediate benefit as long as the relationship in general is beneficial.

Finally, there should be architecture or mechanisms that formalize all of this. We were there once before. We need to find a new equilibrium point on that spectrum. We’re here today because we are hopeful that a relationship between the United States and New Zealand, based on the global realities of the 21st century will grow and prosper. The fact that we have common values does not give us the answers but it allows us to ask the questions. I look forward to reviewing these questions over the course of this conference.

Thank you.