17 Jun 2014

PM begins final push for UN seat

1:13 pm on 17 June 2014

Prime Minister John Key has arrived in the United States to begin the last big push to win support for New Zealand's bid for a seat on the United Nations Security Council.

John Key

Prime Minister John Key Photo: RNZ / Diego Opatowski

The lobbying in New York will take up the first day-and-a-half of Mr Key's trip, before he heads to Washington to meet US President Barack Obama.

At about midnight tonight (8am New York time), Mr Key will lay a wreath at a monument to those who died in the 11 September, 2001, terrorist attacks before heading into hours of lobbying with permanent ambassadors at the UN.

New Zealand last had a seat on the Security Council in 1993, and in 2004 the government of Prime Minister Helen Clark announced a bid for a seat in 2015.

The decision will be made in October and Mr Key is confident New Zealand has run the strongest campaign it can.

"Look, I can't gaurantee anyone that we're going to beat Turkey and Spain, they're ferocious competitors, they've got big budgets, but in the context of running a campaign but not being silly in terms of the amount of money we spend and the things we do, I think we've run the very best campaign we can and if we don't win it it won't be for want of trying," he said.

Greens confident

Green Party foreign affairs spokesperson Kennedy Graham said he believed New Zealand had a good shot at getting one of the two seats up for grabs.

"There is a theory that if there are three countries vying for two seats, it's the middle-sized country that tends to drop out and the large country and the small countries that come in, which would be Turkey and New Zealand," he said.

"Now that's little more than mythology but I do think we're in with a good chance."

Former Prime Minister Helen Clark.

Former Prime Minister Helen Clark. Photo: PHOTO NZ

While in New York, Mr Key will also have a private lunch with former US President Bill Clinton, and a meeting with Miss Clark, who is now the head of the UN Development Programme.

Mr Key said outside of all the overall relationship, the big issue which would be up for discussion with Mr Obama was the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement.

"He's most recently been in Japan and we'll be interested to get a further download on how he thinks those discussions went, where he thinks the other players are at, and how likely it is that we can conclude a deal."

'Rebalance' on agenda

Also on the agenda would be America's so-called "rebalance" to the Asia-Pacific region.

Alan Tidwell, director of Australia, New Zealand and Pacific Studies at Georgetown University in Washington DC, said the decision by the US to turn its sights to the Asia-Pacific was mostly because of a rising China.

The rebalance put New Zealand in a great position, Dr Tidwell said.

"It means in one respect no matter what happens, New Zealand is in a positive spot, and I think that's great. This is the benefit of not a non-aligned policy, but a somewhat non-aligned policy that New Zealand has pursued and I think this is very much to its benefit.

Why not be trading partners with as many as you possibly can? It's a great way to insulate New Zealand agains the vagaries of the future."

Dr Tidwell said it was fortunate for Mr Key that his visit to the White House would be the week after Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott's visit, so Mr Obama's thoughts would already be on the South Pacific.