Press Availability With New Zealand Prime Minister John Key
Secretary of State
PRIME MINISTER KEY: Okay, good morning. So we had a great opportunity to welcome Secretary Kerry to New Zealand and to catch up with him after his brief but I’m sure important trip down to Antarctica. Let me just start by saying what we’ve been saying for a very long period of time, that the relationship with the United States is probably in the best shape it’s been for decades. I think a great part of the reason that the relationship is in great shape is because of the work of President Obama and Secretary Kerry, who have been very engaged in the issues that New Zealand cares deeply about, have been extremely open and generous with their time.
We noted the U.S. warship USS Sampson will be coming to New Zealand for the 75th anniversary of the Navy. I thanked John for that and made the point that it is a great win, I think, for the relationship between New Zealand and the United States. We obviously had a wide-ranging discussion which I’m sure the Secretary will cover, from everything from what’s happening in the Middle East, obviously, to TPP, climate change, and many other issues that the world faces.
Just before I finish I just – I want to take a moment if I can, Mr. Secretary, just to genuinely thank you for what you’ve done – not just your engagement with New Zealand, which as I said has always been well beyond what could have been expected. You’ve been amazingly kind and generous with your time to New Zealand, and I know your engagement with our foreign minister, Murray McCully, has been extensive. You’ve always been there to both answer the phone and to make calls when you feel it’s necessary. We’ve worked very closely together on a range of issues. I think in the time that you have been Secretary of State you’ve been engaged in the most challenging issues the world faces. They are never going to be issues that are – will be easy to resolve. They are steeped in history and challenges. But your engagement has been second to none. We have at all times, I think, managed to not only confront those issues where New Zealand’s had an involvement, particularly in our time on the Security Council, but done so with a sense of good humor and good heart.
And I know that you are coming to the end of your time as, of course, President Obama’s administration is, but once again we just want to thank you. You can’t have a relationship which continues to go from strength to strength by accident. Like a marriage, you have to work at it, and I think both sides have been active and fully engaged. So on the basis this is probably in your current role the last visit you might have to New Zealand, just on behalf of the New Zealand people we want to thank you and wish you all the very best, but we’ll pass on to you.
SECRETARY KERRY: Well, thank you, Prime Minister. I hope definitively not my last visit to New Zealand.
PRIME MINISTER KEY: (Laughter.) No, afraid not.
SECRETARY KERRY: I want to thank you. Thank you for your very generous personal words just now, and thank you for your terrific engagement over the time that I have been privileged to serve as Secretary. I’ve really enjoyed enormously my personal relationship with my counterpart, Murray McCully, but also I’ve enjoyed the many interactions I’ve had with you. And we could not be more grateful for the extraordinary leadership that New Zealand provides on so many different levels. You are a partner. You’ve been a partner in security issues, in counterterrorism issues, in humanitarian issues, the South China Sea, climate change, environment, our work together in Antarctica. Really, there’s a tremendous partnership. And as I said to you a moment ago – I don’t think I’m revealing any secrets – I want people in New Zealand to know that from the perspective of President Obama and the United States of America, we could not be more excited or more gratified for the tremendous relationship that we have with New Zealand. I think it’s as good as it has ever been.
I do want to just begin this morning as I say a few words about broader issues, I want to express my deepest condolences to the families and the loved ones of those poor Americans who were killed in an attack yesterday at Bagram Air Field in Afghanistan and express our gratitude for the service of those folks whose lives were taken by an abhorrent and cowardly act which just underscores what we are all fighting for in various places in the world, which is stability and peace and the ability of people to be able to live with tolerance, with different points of view. And so our mission in Afghanistan will not be deterred by these individual acts. It’s that simple. So the sooner people realize there is a better way to resolve differences, the sooner the world will be able to move more effectively in a better direction.
It’s very special for me to be here in Wellington with the prime minister and with my friend and counterpart, Murray McCully, and I want to thank the Government of New Zealand for extending another warm welcome to another American Obama Administration official. The Vice President enjoyed being here earlier in the year. This is my first official visit to New Zealand as Secretary, but I’ve had the privilege and the pleasure of being here a number of different times both as a senator and prior to that. In fact, in 1968, which dates me irretrievably, I came here as a young naval officer serving aboard a frigate in the United States Navy, having finished a tour in the Gulf of Tonkin, and we came down here as part of the Coral Sea celebration. I had a chance to visit Wellington. I spent four or five days enjoying what was then a smaller and more intimate city but nevertheless no less a welcoming one.
And I observed then what I know to be true today, which is that the people of our two nations share similar values. We’re informed by the history of our defending those values together, and I will have a chance to impress that today when I have a chance to lay a wreath at the memorial for those who have given their lives through many different conflicts.
And we are also as people – both of us – inspired by a very optimistic future – sense of what the future can bring us if we make the right choices and if we sustain this rules-based order that we have developed since World War II. Our diplomatic relation as two countries actually spans more than 175 years, and the United States was one of the first countries to establish a diplomatic relationship with New Zealand. Since the signing more recently of the 2010 Wellington Declaration, our partnership has expanded dramatically. And the fact is that the bonds between our peoples are really stronger than ever before.
Both New Zealand and the United States are bordered by large oceans and by peaceful neighbors. Yet in today’s world of interconnected travel and of communications, those qualities don’t protect either of us completely from dangers that exist and originate thousands of miles away. Many of the challenges that we face are not going to be confronted by New Zealand alone or by the United States alone, as much as we would wish that. So the United States is grateful that New Zealand has become a such a key contributor to global peace and security, including through their recent and very productive term on the UN Security Council.
Now just this summer, New Zealand agreed to extend and expand training missions in Afghanistan and Iraq to help build capacity and train local forces. And we are making a difference in both. New Zealand has also dramatically increased funding for development assistance for the millions of refugees and displaced persons who are fleeing the war in Syria, and we appreciate your principled focus to address these and many other international challenges from building schools to vaccinating children to the counterpiracy efforts in the Gulf of Aden. Our two militaries are working side-by-side in so many parts of the world. And as the prime minister said a moment ago, the Navy ship Sampson will be visiting here next week, and they will be attending and participating in the New Zealand Navy 75th annual – 75th Anniversary International Fleet Review. And this is a visit by a United States ship for the first time in more than three decades, so it represents a new milestone in our relationship and the normalization of our security cooperation. I can assure our sailors that they will enjoy, just as I did, extraordinary hospitality and the generosity of their hosts.
So together the United States and New Zealand have worked to address challenges all over the world, and I have had the pleasure, having been here back in ’68 and ‘9 and seeing firsthand the conflict during that period of time, I’m now seeing this remarkable transformation that is taking place throughout Asia. And out of the ashes of World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War, a vibrant community of nations has emerged along with a rules-based international order that benefits the United States, New Zealand, and indeed I think the entire world. It allows people to foster stronger cultural and political and personal ties with citizens throughout the region, and it allowed businesses to plan, to grow, to create jobs, and to prosper in all of our nations. And together the United States and New Zealand and our partners have worked to expand trade and economic opportunities, and I think the potential of this region knows no bounds.
Now, one of the defining aspects of the U.S.-New Zealand relationship is the explorer tradition that is inherent in both of our societies. Americans and Kiwis alike have long found a history of building a better future for communities, and that’s the primary reason that we’ve been engaged to protect our planet from the extraordinary threat that we face from global climate change. Last night, I returned from an awe-inspiring trip to Antarctica. The prime minister and I were just comparing notes a few minutes ago about how impressive the efforts are of all of the nations that are involved in scientific research there helping us in positions of public responsibility to be able to make key decisions that will protect the long-term future of the planet.
And when I head to the UN Climate Conference in Marrakech next week, I will have an opportunity to share firsthand what I learned from those scientists, particularly some of the New Zealand scientists who are doing special work on the ice mass itself that will help us determine how fast this danger is coming at us and what we can do about it. So I saw the whole West Antarctic ice sheet as I took a helicopter ride, and that ice sheet alone – just the West Antarctic ice sheet – should it break up and melt as it is showing signs of doing now, would add some 12 feet or more to the current sea level. And a significant portion of that could, in fact, happen during the course of this century.
So that is an unacceptable reality to imagine, and we are seeing evidence all across the world in the length and frequency of fires, in the duration and size of flooding that was supposed to be 500 year flooding but actually happens now almost every other year or more frequently, the level of damages from storms, the rising already of sea level, the fact that nation-states – island nation-states in the Pacific specifically – are threatened in their entirety. The evidence is mounting in ways that people in public life should not dare to avoid accepting as a mandate for action.
So I’m proud of what we did together – the United States and New Zealand – in joining in partnership to make sure that the Ross Sea is going to be protected. And it will now become the world’s largest marine protected area, and we should be very, very proud of that.
So I am grateful for this special relationship. I’m grateful for our common sense of purpose. And Mr. Prime Minister, I thank you very, very much for your welcome today and for all that you do to enhance this partnership. Thank you.
MODERATOR: Thank you, Prime Minister. I think we’ve got a few questions for you now.
MR KIRBY: The first question from Nick Perry, Associated Press.
QUESTION: Thanks, Secretary Kerry. You talked quite a bit about climate change. President-elect Trump has said that he thinks that climate change is a hoax and that he would quit the Paris Agreement. And I wondered what you thought that his presidency means for the future of the Paris Agreement and for climate change in general.
SECRETARY KERRY: Well, I don’t think I should speculate on what President-elect Trump’s presidency is going to mean with respect to it. I think that everybody knows that there are sometimes – there is sometimes a divide between a campaign and the governing, and I think the administration, the next administration, needs to define itself on that subject.
But let me just say very, very clearly from my experience which goes back many years on this subject, I was at the Conference of the Parties in Rio in 1992 when President George Herbert Walker Bush, Republican, and his Environment Protection Agency joined in the first global effort, which was a voluntary effort to try to deal with climate change, which only four years earlier Jim Hansen famously proclaimed in testimony to the United States Congress it was already happening, that it was there then in 1988.
Scientists have for years been talking factually about why this is occurring going back to 1898 when a Swedish scientist named Arrhenius actually first promoted this notion of what would happen as greenhouse gases rise into the atmosphere. Now the world’s scientific community has concluded that climate change is happening beyond any doubt, and the evidence is there for everybody to see. Last July was the warmest month in the history of human measurement of temperature, and the June before it was the warmest June, and the entire year before that was the warmest year in the history of recorded temperatures. And that year made up one of ten years in the warmest decade in the history of human temperature, and the decade before that was the second warmest, and the decade before that was the third warmest.
So most kids in high school or even middle school are pretty good at getting a sense that something is happening if that’s what’s going on decade after decade. And when the scientists overwhelmingly in the world reinforce that’s what’s happening, and we see the evidence of it every single day – last year in the United States we spent $8 billion cleaning up after storms that were far more intense than any we’ve had before.
So I believe the evidence is clear, and the question now that we, this Administration, are going to continue to address is how we will implement the Paris Agreement. And until January 20th when this Administration is over, we intend to do everything possible to meet our responsibility to future generations to be able to address this threat to life itself on the planet.
And I might add that the oceans are deeply linked to it. Protecting the Ross Marine Area, which is a major moral responsibility, is part of that endeavor because the acidification which is taking place as a result of the carbon dioxide being dumped in the ocean is greatly changing coral reefs as well as habitat for fisheries, and that is compounded with a fishing industry across the world which is increasingly putting pressure on fish stocks as human demand rises for protein from the ocean. And the result is that eight of the major fisheries of the world are now overfished and the rest of the 17 or 18 major fisheries are either almost at maximum or at maximum. So there’s too much money chasing too few fish, which is a sustainable resource only if sustained and fished in a sustainable way, and that’s the challenge to all of us.
So we will wait to see how the next administration addresses this, but I believe we’re on the right track, and this is a track that the American people are committed to because the majority of the American people believe climate change is, in fact, happening and want to see us address it.
MODERATOR: Thank you. Next question Jane Patterson, Radio New Zealand.
QUESTION: Secretary Kerry, with the Obama Administration effectively suspending its efforts to pass the TPP and Donald Trump’s clear opposition to the deal, does this mean the U.S. is ceding ground to China in the Asia Pacific region and leaving the door open for China to consolidate its position in the region, and particularly in light of Peru now talking about a regional trade deal to include China and Russia?
SECRETARY KERRY: Well, let me emphasize that the TPP was never envisioned nor is it envisioned today – it’s not about China. The TPP is about our economies. It’s about our people. It’s about prosperity. I don’t know many nations in the world that can look to a long-term future of prosperity for their citizens and grow their economies in today’s world which is so interconnected and globalized without the movement of goods and products and services in a way that encourages growth. The United States – I’ll speak for the United States – cannot survive as an economy – growing – if we’re not selling to the place where 95 percent of the world’s customers live, which is in other countries.
I was part of this trade debate back in the 1980s when I was in the United States Senate. I voted on the NAFTA agreement. And I know there are problems with trade in certain ways today because the product of that trade is not flowing all the way down the economic chain the way it should be. I understand that. But that’s not because of the trade per se. That’s because of policies in a country that affect wages or benefits or whether they have health care or whether they can afford health care, whether they’re earning enough from the work that they’re doing to be able to pay the mortgage and send their kids to school and have a decent future. That’s more social policy and structural economic policy in a country than it is something related directly to the trade.
So TPP I think remains important. Obviously, President Obama and I are deeply committed to it. The fact that it may or may not be taken up in the lame duck session doesn’t – isn’t dispositive of where the country may go with this issue. I believe there’ll be a robust debate about it. And there is enough benefit in it for everybody that ultimately I think people will come to see this is a different kind of agreement. This is an agreement which has environment protections built into the agreement. It’s an agreement which has labor protections built into the agreement. It happens to open up the ability for certain American goods to be able to be sold abroad which can’t be sold abroad today because of restrictions that are not – or tariff barriers or non-tariff barriers which are eliminated. It actually restricts state-owned enterprises so that state-owned enterprises will compete on an even playing field with private enterprises. That benefits our companies, I believe.
So I think as people examine it and begin to get beyond the campaign and begin to dig into it, my hope is that it can summon the support that it needs. And if not, immediately that there are tweaks here and there and things that could be done in order to address some of the concerns that people have, because I think trade is absolutely critical, if it’s fair and sensibly based, is essential for growth and development and for the prosperity and stability of nations all around the world. And I think there’s enormous room here for us to do a better job of it but still not to abandon it.
And so it’s not about China. The United States welcomes the peaceful rise of a great nation like China. We’ve said that directly to President Xi and to the Chinese. And we’re not looking for competition or conflict; we’re looking for cooperation. And we found it in many ways on climate change. We hope to find it on other development policies and other things that we’re working on now. So I think that we have to wait and see where we wind up on this debate as the new administration comes in next year.
MODERATOR: Thank you. Last question, James O’Doherty with Sky News.
QUESTION: Secretary Kerry, is the U.S. going to resettle refugees currently held in Australian asylum detention? If so, how many? Is that deal conditional on Australia’s proposed lifetime ban on boat arrivals entering Australia, and would this agreement be able to be overturned by President Trump?
SECRETARY KERRY: Well, I’m glad to see you all are putting such pressure on the prime minister here today. (Laughter.) The – with respect to the refugee issue, obviously this has been a great concern of people everywhere because we have more refugees today than we’ve ever had since World War II. And it’s a pressing, pressing issue.
We in the United States have agreed to consider referrals from UNHCR on refugees now residing in Nauru and in Papua New Guinea. And we know that these refugees are of special interest to UNHCR and we’re very engaged with them on a humanitarian basis there and in other parts of the world.
Now, we are encouraging all countries to work with UNHCR, as we are going to on this subject that you’ve just asked about, to find a durable solution for these refugees. And that was a key focus of the leaders’ summit that took place in New York in September, and my sense is that we’re reaching an understanding of how we may be able to deal with it. I know the Government of Australia has proposed some changes to its laws regarding this, and I don’t want to comment on the specifics of the legislation at this point – that’s for the government to figure out exactly what they intend to do – but we will remain focused on trying to save lives and on providing timely humanitarian assistance and ensuring that the human rights of all migrants are respected one way or the other. That’s the guiding principle. And I can’t answer each of the individual questions you have except I’d just say that we’re going to work to protect vulnerable refugees around the world and we’ll share that responsibility with our friends in the regions that are most affected by this challenge.
PRIME MINISTER KEY: Thank you very much.
SECRETARY KERRY: Thank you all.