Audrey Young is the New Zealand Herald’s political editor.

Study proposes All Blacks tour of US

Prime Minister John Key speaks at the start of the forum. Photo / NZPA
Prime Minister John Key speaks at the start of the forum. Photo / NZPA

An All Blacks tour of the United States has been suggested as away to promote sports diplomacy in a study released today at the US - NZ Partnership Forum in Christchurch.

The study is designed to put flesh on the bones of the Wellington Declaration signed last November by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and New Zealand last year.

It has come up with an extensive wish-list of ways to advance the relationship.

"New Zealand support for the development of American rugby is welcome and clearly an aspect of potential 'soft power' for New Zealand,' says the report, co-authored by the Centre for Strategic and International Studies and the New Zealand Institute for International Affairs.

It said rugby had its place in American culture. US presidents John Kennedy, Bill Clinton and George W Bush played rugby before and after their college years.

Clinton played lock at Oxford University and Bush played fullback at Yale, while Kennedy played at Harvard.

Most universities had rugby teams and high schools were developing the sport.

"One high profile way to highlight New Zealand's role and build excitement would be to conduct an All Blacks tour of the United States, organising US - NZ outreach events at key venues and building support for other aspects of the relationship.

Other suggestion in the report include
- establishing a joint "centre of excellence for science and technology. Government would provide initial support and encourage the participants
of leading universities, research centres, companies and individuals.

- expand joint military engagement;

-establish a joint working group on climate change;

- double the number of Fullbright scholarships to the US by 2015;

- develop new visa schemes to reduce barriers including for business travellers;

- create a joint US-NZ eminent persons group to further explore joint partnerships.

Forum gets off to faltering start

The forum, the fourth of its kind, got off to a faltering start in Christchurch this morning minus more of some of its big name players.

A delegation of nine Congressmen has been delayed by a day after Congress went into overtime to debate budget cuts.

Assistant Secretary of State for East Asia and Pacific Affairs Kurt Campbell is late.

The Secretary for Homeland Security, Janet Napolitano, cancelled altogether on Friday because of the fatal shooting of one of her agents in Mexico.

Council of Trade Union president Helen Kelly who has attended in the past is boycotting the forum because it will be discussing the Trans Pacific Partnership trade agreement currently being negotiated between nine countries.

She also lambasted the "insensitivity" of accepting sponsorship of the forum from Warner Bros - the company making the Hobbit movie and the source of a major industrial dispute last year.

The forum brings together business, academic, government and political players in a bid to discuss aspect of the United States - New Zealand relationship behind closed doors.

Prime Minister John Key opened the forum talking up New Zealand's military effort in Afghanistan, saying "this country continues to meet its responsibilities to collective security efforts."

Speaking about the Trans Pacific Partnership, he praised Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan for pushing the possibility of Japan joining the negotiations as well.

Referring to anxiety in the US dairy industry over trade liberalisation, he pointed to unpopular requests the United States would be making of New Zealand - the US objects to the Government owned agency Pharmac, which bulk-buys preferred medicines.

"New Zealand will also be facing requests, including from the US, which we have not confronted in previous FTAs.

"When facing such challenges, it is important that we all remind ourselves of the overall collective benefits in getting TPP right, of which there are many."

The United States ambassador, David Huebner, however said that what mattered was the "strategic opportunity and the longterm benefit of a fair and balanced deal, not chasing the illusory perfect deal."

"What does not matter is the short-term score card and who wins or loses what or what capital is accrued or spent. "

He said the "landmines" in the road ahead were not substantive.

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