Remarks by Vice President Joe Biden and New Zealand Prime Minister John Key
Auckland, New Zealand
PRIME MINISTER KEY: Okay, so good morning. Can I start by acknowledging the Vice President? We’re delighted to have you in New Zealand, sir. And it’s great to have you here.
The relationship between New Zealand and the United States continues to strengthen, and your visit further reinforces the long-standing friendship between our two countries. We have just concluded a very useful meeting where we covered a number of international issues of shared interest.
We spoke about our commitment to working together to address some of the significant threats to international peace and security that we face today – in particular, the threat of ISIL, its brand of terrorism, and its incitement to violence against innocent civilians is of significant concern.
The recent attacks in Nice, Brussels, Baghdad and Florida are just some of the horrific examples of why we need to work together in the global effort to defeat ISIL.
New Zealand recently extended our training deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan. These compliment the extensive efforts of the United States and others to counter the threat of international terrorism and to assist governments in the Middle East to bring stability to their countries.
We discussed the ongoing tragic events in Syria, and I acknowledged the efforts of the United States to bring some stability back to that country. New Zealand is doing all it can in its role on the U.N. Security Council to support the people of Syria.
The Asia Pacific region is of particular focus for both countries, and we talked about how we might be able to cooperate further, in particular on security capacity building.
New Zealand is looking to increase its efforts in the region on countering violent extremism, preventing the movement of foreign terrorist fighters, and stopping the financing of terrorism.
I welcome the increased attention the United States is paying to this part of the world. New Zealand’s commitment to playing its part in strengthening global security was also reflected in recent discussions and decisions to increase funding for our intelligence and defense capabilities.
The Vice President also confirmed that the United States has accepted our invitation to participate in the 75th Anniversary of the Royal New Zealand Navy and intends to send a ship to these celebrations. I’m naturally and obviously pleased that they’ve accepted.
The International Naval Review is an important occasion for us, and we hope to have many of our friends here to celebrate alongside us. Both countries and both governments also remain committed to advancing trade opportunities. We discussed our respective progress towards ratifying TPP, as well as the importance of the agreement and helping to lead economic integration efforts in the region.
We were also able to discuss more technical bilateral issues affecting trade, including New Zealand’s desire to see an improvement in business visa access to the United States.
My recent trip to Europe and the UK and Indonesia also featured including the trade opportunities and challenges as a result of Brexit. And we discussed last week’s Arbitration Tribunal decision on the South China Sea. While New Zealand does not take a position on the various territorial claims, we have consistently said that the differing interests in the region should be managed peacefully and in accordance with international law. It is New Zealand’s view that it’s in all parties’ interests to ensure that the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea is respected. And we hope that the tribunal’s ruling can provide a platform for resolving these issues.
New Zealand and the United States are both committed to supporting efforts to find peaceful solutions to these long-standing and very complex issues.
Finally, I explained the Vice President why New Zealand believes Helen Clark is the best candidate for the U.N. Secretary General’s role. This firmly held view is based on her track record as Prime Minister of New Zealand and her leadership of the UNDP. We believe she would bring strong and pragmatic leadership to the organization and an ability to work constructively with the U.N. membership.
So today has been a valuable opportunity to discuss a range of issues of importance to both countries. I’d like to thank the Vice President for taking time to visit New Zealand. The friendship between our two countries reflects our common values and shared interests, and the relationship has never been stronger.
Thank you once again. Mr. Vice President, I offer the opportunity to speak.
VICE PRESIDENT BIDEN: Thank you, Mr. Prime Minister. And by the way, I’m not going home. (Laughter.) What a beautiful, beautiful, beautiful country. You have a beautiful setting.
Good afternoon, everyone. I am so pleased to be here in New Zealand. And I want to thank you, Mr. Prime Minister, for the welcome you extended to me and to my granddaughters who are with me. And I’m also honored to receive a tradition Maori welcome before our meeting. They made me a genuine hero with my granddaughters. And earlier today, I got to meet a few real New Zealand heroes – two of the members of the All Blacks. I am a – 400 years ago I played rugby when I was in law school, and I played college – American football. And I was telling them, the two representatives of the All Blacks that came to see me this morning, Mr. Prime Minister, that my brother was a rugby player, as well. And one day when I was a young senator during a recess period, he said, the All Blacks are playing four matches in Ireland. And so we packed up, and we followed them all through Ireland. There was nothing but carnage left behind. (Laughter.) But I am a real fan.
And I also want to extend my appreciation to all the people of New Zealand for the incredible hospitality our very short visit has generated.
The United States and New Zealand, as the Prime Minister pointed out, have made incredible progress in our bilateral relationship during the Obama-Biden administration with you, Mr. Prime Minister. And we signed early on the Wellington Declaration in 2010, and two years later, the Washington delegation – the Washington Declaration to rebuild closer ties between our nations.
And today we take another major step to further our friendships. It’s with great pleasure and honor, Mr. Prime Minister, the United States does accept – gladly accepts the invitation to send a ship to the Royal New Zealand Navy’s 75th celebration this November. And it will be another expression of our close and cooperative relationship between both of our countries that we’ve worked together so hard to strengthen.
Mr. Prime Minister, we both discussed, as you point out, a wide range of issues where New Zealand and the United States are working together as we speak; starting with economic cooperation. Our trade and our investment relationship is steadily growing. We’re doing more business together, investing more in each other’s countries. And together, we have led the way in creating high-standard trading agreements that are necessary to uphold the liberal economic order of this new century; agreements that protect workers’ rights, preserve the environment, and significantly safeguard intellectual property.
And the vast economic potential here in the Asia Pacific exists, and this is – my guess is the 21st century will be marked by the progress made in the Asia Pacific region. But unlocking it depends on how well we manage differences that exist in the region peacefully and how we maintain stability that is essential to economic growth.
That’s why both of our nations have issued statements – urging China and Philippines to abide the Arbitration Tribunal’s ruling last week regarding the South China Sea. And both our nations understand that continued peace and prosperity in Asia is incumbent upon our ability to protect the environment. So New Zealand and the United States are working together to put this plan on a more sustainable path, to address climate change, and to also increase our role with the goal you have so significantly set of renewable energy – 81 percent of our energy is now renewable. That far exceeds where we are, but is a goal that we are attempting to achieve, as well.
On the security front, the Prime Minister and I reiterated our commitment to work as partners to promote peace and provide humanitarian assistance and disaster relief throughout the region. Together, we are strengthening the region’s ability to address challenges both through multilateral institutions. New Zealand is an incredibly valuable partner in the U.N. Security Council, a committed contributor to the counter-ISIL coalition. And we stand united against the evil that these terrorists promote around the world.
And I said somewhat humorously to Prime Minister that I wish we had the partisan zeal – nonpartisan zeal that you have. If the potential nominee for – become Secretary General could hear what the opposition had to say, I was impressed. I thought she was his sister. (Laughter.) It was amazing. But all kidding aside we have very high regard for your nominee, and she is one that is being closely considered.
PRIME MINISTER KEY: Good.
VICE PRESIDENT BIDEN: But the most important connection between our nations has always been our people. Americans and Kiwis are cut from the same cloth fiercely independent and tenacious. And if you excuse, as we used to say in the United States Senate, a point of personal privilege, I grew up hearing about the Kiwis from my grandfather Finnegan, who lost one of his sons in New Guinea and another son came back very badly injured. But every time the Kiwis were mentioned, he literally would straighten his shoulders, and the same with the Aussies. The regard that New Zealand is held in in the United States – I doubt whether any of you who’ve visited the United States have ever, ever received anything other than a warm welcome. There is a real genuine affection for New Zealand in the United States.
My only hope is that there’s a significant affection for the United States here.
But we don’t always agree. But what we do is we share the same basic values of promoting freedom, equality, and opportunity.
And it’s that kinship of spirit that drives our nations’ desire – and capacity – to work together to make the world a better place. And presumptuous of me to say but I think that’s exactly what we’re doing together.
From scientific research we conduct together in the Antarctic, to our shared efforts to protect the Ross Sea. From our commitment to promoting democracy and good governance around the world, to our shared efforts to end the scourge of violence against women, our nations accomplish more because we’re moving together. It matters. The whole is bigger than the sum of the parts when we cooperate, Mr. Prime Minister.
And on this trip I traveled first to Hawaii, and I joined a trilateral meeting with our Japanese and South Korean allies and observed our ongoing Rim of the Pacific exercises; to Australia after that where I discussed everything from security cooperation around the world to our shared fight to end cancer as we know it. And we signed three memorandums of understanding on cancer cooperation and the Moonshot that the President is initiating at home; and to New Zealand where the Prime Minister and I have once reaffirmed our commitment to expanding this relationship between our two nations.
It’s been from our perspective an outstanding trip. And at every stop I have framed to our closest partners in the region the incredible importance that the United States places in the Asia Pacific. We are a Pacific nation. The United States is a Pacific nation. We are not going anywhere. We are here to stay. And we will continue to work closely with all of our friends throughout the region because there’s such overwhelming potential from China to New Zealand, from India to Japan. There’s such enormous potential in this region.
It’s been a productive visit, an important opportunity to celebrate what unites all of our people. And I believe that our nations are only going to grow closer as we continue to work together in the 21st century.
I said to the Prime Minister and his colleagues as we met, this is the hundredth anniversary of William Butler Yeats’ poem Easter Sunday 1916, which commemorates the First Rising in the 20th century in Ireland. And there’s a line in Yeats’ poem that he used to describe his Ireland at the moment, but I think better describes the world as we greet it today and why it’s so important we stand shoulder-to-shoulder.
He said, “All’s changed, changed utterly. A terrible beauty has been born.”
The world has significantly changed in the last 15 years. We have a chance. And great moments of change, which have only occurred in the last century and a half on three occasions, when it occurs, we have a chance to mold the next 10, 20, 30, 40 years if we’re smart, if we work hard, if we, in fact, act with likeminded nations who share the same values of democracy, openness, working together.
And so, Mr. President – excuse me, I just demoted you. Mr. Prime Minister, thank you –
PRIME MINISTER KEY: You might have promoted me – the country.
VICE PRESIDENT BIDEN: Thank you, thank you so much for the hospitality. And may God bless our countries and may Got protect our troops. Thank you so very, very much.
Q Mr. Vice President, will you take a couple of questions?
VICE PRESIDENT BIDEN: Apparently that’s not on the agenda, but why don’t you shout something on your way out.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: I do. I think in the lame duck session we have a real chance for that happening. The lame duck means after this general election takes place in November and before the Congress adjourns. I’m hopeful. Thank you.