So, I hear President Barak Obama wants to come to New Zealand before he leaves the White House. If so, that would make him just the third United States President to visit, the others being former Presidents Bill Clinton and Lyndon B. Johnson. Countries generally vie for a visit from the President of the most powerful nation on the planet, and it is true that New Zealand has not been an exception to this rule. But let us be honest here about how much New Zealand would stand to gain.
- A chance for New Zealand to talk about issues in the South Pacific – a subject that I feel has been hugely lacking under this National-led Government; where New Zealand can realistically help overseas without being exposed to an undue level of danger; accepting that A.N.Z.U.S. is a Cold War relic that needs to be put to sleep
- A chance for him to meet New Zealand opposition parties instead of just being exposed to the governing party of the day
- The publicity that goes with a U.S. President coming to New Zealand will be good for New Zealand businesses, especially those in the tourism and export sectors
- Inevitably there is a degree of disruption that goes with a U.S. Presidential visit, though a Chinese or Russian President visiting would probably cause similar disruption given their aversion to people exercising their most basic human rights
- New Zealand police generally get the balance right, but there is a risk when a potentially embarrassing protest event is in progress that it might steal the limelight, and the police be required to put a quick and not necessarily proper end to it
- Who foots the bill? Is it a combination of U.S. and New Zealand taxpayer money or does one nation or the other pay for all of it?
On the whole I think a United States Presidential visit is a good thing. The two countries have made substantial progress in their relations since the Rainbow Warrior bombing. However, issues such as the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement show that there is still considerable room left for improvement.