Remarks With New Zealand Foreign Minister Murray McCully Before Their Meeting

John Kerry
Secretary of State
The George Hotel
Christchurch, New Zealand
November 10, 2016

SECRETARY KERRY: Can I just say before we sit down, I want to say what a pleasure it is for me to be in New Zealand, back in New Zealand for me, the first trip as Secretary but I’ve been here before and love it. And I really – I want to express the appreciation of President Obama and the American people for the tremendous cooperation with New Zealand on so many issues. First of all, New Zealand is just wrapping up a tour of the UN Security Council. We have really enjoyed working with them on so many issues of importance to the world, and we appreciate New Zealand’s leadership. We also appreciate all that New Zealand has done to step up on the issues of global concern – on South Sudan, on Iraq, Afghanistan, on TPP, on climate change. We’re appreciative to New Zealand for its leadership on clean energy, encouragement with respect to our scientific stations in Antarctica. So on issue after issue – South China Sea, counterterrorism – New Zealand is there. And we greatly appreciate the special relationship that we share in that regard, and it’s one that we have shared for a long time now.

Let me also say if I can, because obviously there has been a momentous election that has taken place in the United States, I want to offer my congratulations to President-elect Donald Trump and wish him well for the American people, for him, for his family, on the enormous challenges that he will undertake to resolve, to meet, with the same spirit, I hope, that characterizes every presidency, Republican or Democrat, to protect the interests of our people and uphold the values of our country.

I also want to express my appreciation and respect to my former colleague and friend and former secretary, Hillary Clinton. I know how hard she fought. I know what it takes out of a family, having been there and done that. And I greatly appreciate her gracious comments today, and I am confident that she and the president – President Clinton, and her family, will continue to contribute in so many ways.

Let me share with everybody two thoughts, if I may. With a transition like this, the issues that we face don’t go away. The values with which we face them are the same values the day after the election that they were the day before. And so I sent a note to all of our personnel within the State Department this morning reiterating what I have said to them personally before I left the country to come here, and that is that we have a time-honored tradition of a very peaceful and constructive transfer of power within administrations when that occurs in the United States. And I have instructed everybody in the State Department to make sure that while the issues still are in front of us, we will continue to work every day between now and January 20th in order to further the interests of our country, protect the safety and security of our people, and guarantee that we address those issues and concerns, which are the same today as they were the day before the election. That means making people safer, working to continue to build relationships, which is why I’m here, and continuing to work not just for the United States but for the better prosperity and stability and security of people all around the world.

The second thing that I have instructed our people to continue to work on is the transition itself. One of the beautiful things of democracy and we particularly pride ourselves in the United States is that we have this amazing peaceful transfer of power. And we will do everything in our power, as I have instructed our team, to work with the incoming administration as fully and openly as possible, to be as helpful as possible, so that the transfer of power will be as smooth as it possibly can without missing a beat on the important issues before us. And I am absolutely confident that the people of the world will be able to measure an elegant and graceful process which meets the highest standards of democracy and also I hope will help to set the administration, the new administration, off on the right footing, which is so important to our friends everywhere.

So again, I’m delighted to be here in New Zealand. I look forward, if the weather permits, to getting to Antarctica. And in the meantime, I’m going to enjoy a meeting here with my counterpart and then later with the prime minister in a couple days, and look forward to honoring our shared dead through many wars at a new memorial when we get a chance, I think on Sunday. So thank you.

FOREIGN MINISTER MCCULLY: Can I just take a very brief opportunity to formally welcome Secretary John Kerry to New Zealand in his first visit in this capacity. There have been previous visits personally. I want to just reiterate the congratulations of the New Zealand Government to President-elect Trump. Our prime minister has written to the president-elect to congratulate him and to convey the commitment of the New Zealand Government and New Zealand people to furthering the excellent relations that have been developed between our two countries both in terms of the bilateral relationship and the wider international cooperation that you speak of.

Can I just also further say that since the first part of your visit is focused on Antarctica, I just want to record our thanks to you, John Kerry, for the work that you and your colleagues have done to enable the Ross Sea Marine Protected Area to get across the line. We, I think, were both surprised that after such a long discussion we managed to achieve this objective – 1.55 million square kilometers of marine protected area, over 70 percent of which is completely no-take zone, is a real achievement, a real legacy. Given your personal commitment to this, I just want to place on record that while our two countries jointly sponsored this, your leadership on this matter mattered greatly, and I want to convey our grateful thanks to you (inaudible).

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, I don’t want to – I don’t want to totally undo what you said, but I was not surprised. I knew we were going to get there. (Laughter.) And it was with your help and our partnership that I had confidence in it. And it is a great accomplishment to have this largest marine protected area on the planet, and it’s right south of here in the Ross Sea and I look forward to flying over it, hopefully. Thank you.

QUESTION: Secretary Kerry, will you still go to Marrakesh , and are you worried about the effect of the election on the negotiations there?

SECRETARY KERRY: No, I’m absolutely going to Marrakesh, perhaps even more important. And I look forward to being there very, very much, and I’ll have a lot more to say about the subject of Antarctica and climate change when I get to Marrakesh.