23 Jul 2011

Obama hopeful of progress on trade deal

1:55 pm on 23 July 2011

US President Barack Obama says he hopes a framework for a Trans Pacific Partnership trade deal can be finished later this year.

New Zealand Prime Minister John Key met the President at the White House on Friday.

Mr Key says the President indicated he would like to have a high-level Trans Pacific Partnership document to sign at a meeting in November of APEC leaders.

Mr Key made the nine country Trans Pacific Partnership his priority for the talks.

President Obama says New Zealand has always been an outstanding partner for the United States and he was very pleased the US relationship with New Zealand is growing stronger day by day.

The meeting lasted just over half an hour. Afterwards, he and Mr Key addressed the media, but did not answer questions.

Mr Obama said they discussed economic issues and the great interest in promoting a more effective trade regime and the Trans Pacific Partnership.

The two also spoke about co-ordinating disaster response and security co-operation.

Mr Obama also paid tribute to the resilience of New Zealand following the Canterbury earthquakes and said the US is still heartbroken by the loss of life and property in Christchurch.

Mr Key thanked Mr Obama for the US response to the earthquakes, saying the American search and rescue teams were fabulous.

Mr Obama also thanked New Zealand for its military efforts in Afghanistan.

New Zealand has a provincial reconstruction team of more than 100 troops in Bamiyan province and an SAS contingent in Kabul.

Gifts exchanged

Mr Obama has given Mr Key a New Zealand-made gift, a replica of the sword being used in the Hobbit movies, by the character Bilbo Baggins.

It was made by the Weta Workshop in Wellington.

In return, Mr Key gave Mr Obama a greenstone mere, made by Ngai Tahu.

US protocol requires official gifts to be exchanged behind the scenes, rather than directly between leaders.

Mr Key says there has been an awful lot of warmth displayed towards New Zealand over the last two days.