United States Ambassador-Designate to New Zealand and Samoa

David Huebner
Statement Before the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations
Washington, DC
November 5, 2009

Mr. Chairman and distinguished Members of the Committee, I am deeply honored to appear before you today as President Obama’s nominee to serve as the United States Ambassador to New Zealand and the Independent State of Samoa. I am grateful to the President and to Secretary Clinton for their trust and confidence in nominating me to serve the United States in this position. I am equally grateful to receive this distinguished Committee’s consideration.

I can imagine no higher honor and privilege than to serve my country. The grandparents into whose house I was born were immigrants who instilled in their family a deep appreciation for the opportunity and freedom that brought them to America. Their son, my father, proudly served in the First Cavalry in Korea and taught his children the importance of service and active citizenship. To them it would be no surprise that in America, the grandson of a coal miner and the son of a meat cutter could be considered for appointment as a U.S. Ambassador. That is the America they embraced. I wish they were still with us to hear me thank them for the sacrifices and direction that led to my appearance here today.

With the Chairman’s permission, I would like to introduce those members of my immediate family who are with me. Dr. Duane McWaine, my partner of 20 years, has come from our home in Los Angeles. I would also like to introduce and thank my mother Elizabeth, to whom I owe my independent spirit, tenacity, and focus on education, from my hometown of Mahanoy City, Pennsylvania. Here as well are my brother Richard, sister-in-law Christie, and nephew Christopher, from Connecticut; my niece Emily (now at Hofstra University in New York); my mother-in-law Dora McWaine and niece Marydora from Oakland, California; and Duane's and my godsons Alexander (from Gainesville, Florida), and Phillip and Kevin (now both at Lehigh University in Pennsylvania). I am delighted that they could be here today, particularly the children and young adults. It is important for them to see our system live, to understand that it is theirs as much as anyone’s, and to recognize the importance of participating in our political and governmental processes.

I am particularly honored to be considered for the posts in New Zealand and Samoa because of the great – and increasing – importance of the Pacific community to world prosperity, innovation, and stability. I know first-hand the opportunities and challenges that we face in the region. I have spent most of my adult life working in the fields of international law and business around the Pacific Rim. I made California my home after law school, and I have lived and worked for extended periods in Japan and China. I founded, built, and continue to manage a law office in Shanghai, where I currently reside, for my Southern California-based law firm. I previously served as full-time chairman of an international law firm that had approximately 30 offices around the world, including 12 on the Pacific Rim. My field of law practice is international dispute resolution, and I have spent most of my career handling arbitrations and negotiations involving parties or business relationships in the region.

Our ties with New Zealand are stronger now than at any time since 1985 and our interaction continues to grow. Despite being thousands of miles apart and separated by the vast Pacific Ocean, our two countries have a similar vision in which we seek a more secure, prosperous, and open global community. Even more importantly, we actively collaborate on moving that vision forward. In Wellington, we have a partner that is committed to expanding global trade and promoting democratic values while pursuing peace and security. This is exactly the sort of friend we want to have in a time of peace and the type of support we need in an hour of crisis.

Even with its small military, Kiwi soldiers and advisers play a far larger role than those from many countries with larger populations and larger militaries. New Zealand participates or leads peacekeeping operations in the Sinai, the Solomon Islands, Sudan, Bosnia, and Timor-Leste. It is an active partner at the United Nations, and it is committed to resolving conflict through negotiation. New Zealand troops are fighting shoulder to shoulder with our own soldiers in Afghanistan where New Zealand has led the Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) in Bamyan Province since 2003, focusing on law enforcement cooperation and setting a model for other PRTs around the country. Additionally, New Zealand recently deployed for a fourth round its special operations troops – the Special Air Service (SAS) – to Afghanistan. The SAS is a highly-effective fighting force, as evinced by having received a U.S. Navy Presidential Unit Citation in December 2004 for extraordinary heroism. We are grateful for the service and sacrifice of New Zealand’s troops in Afghanistan. While success will ultimately depend on Afghan leadership and Afghan capacity, New Zealand’s efforts are significantly contributing to this goal.

New Zealand’s efforts to combat nuclear proliferation and the spread of weapons of mass destruction are also commendable. The county is an active leader in the Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI) and the Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism (GICNT). Among other activities, New Zealand developed a PSI model national response plan as a template to help countries organize their efforts to prevent shipments of proliferation concern. In September 2008, New Zealand led PSI Exercise MARU, a major exercise that focused on post-interdiction issues for WMD-related cargo which involved 28 countries. New Zealand is also significantly helping Pacific Island nations meet their United Nations Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1540 obligations and recently co-sponsored the Workshop for Pacific Island Countries on the Security and Safety of Radiological Sources. New Zealand contributed approximately $500,000 to a border security project in Ukraine in 2007 and committed approximately $350,000 for a border security project in Kazakhstan in 2009 under the U.S. Nuclear Smuggling Outreach Initiative. These efforts are indicative of how New Zealand “punches above its weight” in strategic cooperation on the world stage.

If confirmed, I hope to promote an even stronger economic relationship and I will look for opportunities to increase U.S. trade and investment in New Zealand. The United States is New Zealand’s second-largest trading partner, and New Zealand is one of our closest partners in the Doha Round negotiations. New Zealand consistently advocates for common sense solutions that promote fair and balanced agreements. We both realize the global benefits of open economies to the international community.

New Zealand is also a leader in international development and global health. New Zealand has pledged to provide a significant amount of its H1N1 vaccine stock to developing countries in partnership with the United States and other donor nations. Its medical researchers and scientists work in advanced laboratories throughout the country to develop the best medicines to fight diseases found all over the world. There are a multitude of projects which benefit from the collaboration of American and New Zealand scientific and medical researchers.

We have worked together on and in Antarctica for over 50 years and our five decades of cooperation there include joint research through our closely-linked bases on the ice. New Zealand is completing the installation of wind turbines, designed to function in the extreme climate conditions of Antarctica, to provide renewable energy to both our McMurdo Base and New Zealand’s Scott Base.

As an island nation that understands how serious the threat from climate change really is, New Zealand is a key player in the international effort to reduce greenhouse gasses particularly in the agricultural sector. We closely cooperate in multilateral fora, and the Energy Development in Island Nations (EDIN) – an initiative started in July 2008 – brings together New Zealand, Iceland, and U.S. experts to promote renewable energy projects on small islands. EDIN provides near-term technical assistance to island economies through improved planning for energy supply security; support for progressive energy policies, education, and training; and the creation of an island-based clean energy industry and workforce initiative.

New Zealand has also amply demonstrated its compassionate outlook – the Kiwis are recognized leaders in responding to crises and in helping neighboring countries recover from man-made or natural disasters. Seeing pictures of the relief response in Samoa and Tonga, which were hit by the September 29 tsunami, gave a good picture of New Zealand’s humanitarian capability. New Zealand was among the first to commit and provide aid, clearly representative of New Zealanders’ compassion and their commitment to international cooperation in peace and development. We are fortunate to have such a partner with whom to work in humanitarian response situations. If confirmed, I look forward to participating in our joint efforts to help provide reconstruction assistance to those affected in the region.

I feel particularly privileged to be nominated to represent the United States as Ambassador to two such diverse countries and New Zealand and Samoa. If confirmed, I will strive to devote attention to my responsibilities in Samoa as well.

Right now, Samoa is emerging from the devastating tsunami which ravaged a key portion of this stable country. Its location in a sea of island-states presents particular challenges and concerns, especially with respect to climate change impact, including sea level rise, as well as energy and food security.

We have had a history of close cultural and family ties with residents of nearby American Samoa and Samoan communities in the United States. The presence of the Peace Corps has also deepened those ties with volunteers working in communities throughout Samoa for over 40 years. Samoans may live many miles away from Washington, but, in many respects, they feel like neighbors.

Samoa’s profile internationally has risen in recent years. Its leaders have taken active roles in advocating for democracy and an end to the coup culture in neighboring Fiji. Samoa hosts the Australian Federal Police’s Pacific Transnational Crime Coordination Center which works on increasing cooperation with regional police forces in coordinating law enforcement activities against common transnational crime such as drug and gun smuggling and money laundering. Samoa also recently joined Interpol, further committing to working on combating international crime. Apia is the home of SPREP, the South Pacific Regional Environmental Program, which cooperates with our scientists and researchers on regional projects. Additionally, while the exact timing is not yet definite, it is safe to say Samoa is on its way to moving out of Least Developed Nation status and the country is working hard to become a member of the WTO. We are cooperating closely with its trade team to see how we can best move this forward. Should I be confirmed, I would work to enhance our efforts with Samoa on both advancing regional development and promoting democracy.

Mr. Chairman, in closing, I would like to say that since being nominated I have glimpsed from a distance the dedication, professionalism, and enthusiasm of the United States’ teams in New Zealand and Samoa. If confirmed, it would be my great honor to lead those interagency teams, and to work closely with Congress and the Executive Branch to promote and protect to the best of my abilities the interests of the United States in New Zealand and Samoa. If confirmed, I would do my best to strengthen and expand our already strong relations with those two good friends in the Pacific.

I appreciate the opportunity to appear before you today, and I would be pleased to answer any questions that you might have.