Connie has been asking questions about New Zealand since the Lyndon Johnson Administration. Unfortunately, her questions to Ronald Reagan set in stone American policy, which triggered a major rupture in New Zealand - US relations because of nuclear differences. But subsequent questions to Bill Clinton and others signaled a thaw in the relationship.
There is little doubt that relationship will continue to improve. Many in the Obama Administration have warm feelings towards New Zealand, and would love to see him visit sometime in his presidency.
- Connie Lawn, from Washington
Connie Lawn Question (via email): Are we allies again?
Barack Obama: I had a very good conversation with Prime Minister [John] Key back in May and we have since exchanged letters. We share similar views on a wide range of common global challenges facing our two countries, including on non-proliferation, climate change and in Afghanistan and the United Nations. This is a positive trend that I'm confident will continue.
Connie Lawn: Does the nuclear issue still have a major effect? How extensive is military and defense cooperation?
Barack Obama: This remains an issue with some impact on the bilateral relationship, but I don't believe it should be a defining issue that prevents us from working together to confront common challenges. My administration is studying ways in which we might broaden our partnership in all areas and this is something we hope to discuss with your government in greater detail as we move forward.
Connie Lawn: Can he do more to increase trade with New Zealand?
Barack Obama: The Asia-Pacific region is one of the most dynamic regions in the world and will be critical to our collective effort to build balanced and sustainable growth. Expanding trade will of course be an integral part of the equation. Within that, increasing trade with the nations of the Asia-Pacific is a priority for me and my administration and I look forward to discussing this with Prime Minister Key and other regional leaders when we meet in Singapore for APEC.
Connie Lawn: And, does he plan any private meetings with PM Key, besides handshakes and photos?
Barack Obama: I look forward to connecting with PM Key at APEC and to speaking with him in person on many of the issues I've just mentioned. I also look forward to having the PM visit us in Washington next spring, including for the Nuclear Security Summit I'll be hosting.