Hollywood legend and Donald Trump supporter Jon Voight made a suitably late entrance to the NZ Embassy's Inauguration Gala in Washington DC this week.

Voight - who had earlier been at a reception hosted by President-elect Trump - arrived as the party was in full swing. But he still had plenty to say about his friend Donald. "These guys, they really love their country and they love the world and they want to make things right and they are good stand-up people.

"He [Trump] says things like 'winning was easy'. He gets about three-four hours of sleep. He works at it quite late at night. And then he does his tweets."

Voight's presence added the star factor to an event studded with Trump Cabinet nominees, members of Trump's Executive Office such as Chris Liddell and Stephen Bannon, senior Trump advisers Stuart Jolly, Mike Rubino and Alan Cobb, the majority Leader of the House of Representatives Kevin McCarthy, senators, members of Congress, generals, a sprinkling of very wealthy businesspeople and Republican insiders.

Advertisement

But it also underlined the important business ties between the New Zealand film industry and Hollywood - a factor noted warmly by both NZ's Ambassador to the United States, Tim Groser, and the Academy Award winner himself, who spoke very highly of the prowess of the New Zealand film industry.

It was a bold step for Groser to host an inauguration gala for Trump insiders at the New Zealand Embassy, particularly when other diplomats are still finding their feet with the new Administration.

The Country: We head to Washington to ask NZME's Head of Business what a Trump presidency means for New Zealand as an exporting nation?

Washington is still in a state of shock over Trump's victory.

While up to 1000 corporate jets will be parked up in and around DC as the power brokers, international government reps, the rich and famous come to town for today's inauguration ceremony, many professional advisers, lobbyists, Democrats and even Republicans are staying home in silent protest.

Says Groser: "Our professional job is to establish the best possible relationships we can with the incoming Administration of the United States.

"And because of the extraordinary nature of the campaign, very few people - I would say even within the United States, let alone the foreign diplomatic community - have really any idea who they are or who is deeply influential in the new Administration."

Groser and his capable deputy Caroline Beresford have made valuable connections and inroads with Trump Administration insiders.

Beresford, who is deputy chief of mission, established links with the Sonoran Policy Group (SPG), a strategic advisory firm which flies under the radar, and the conservative Salem Media group, to co-host the reception.

But there is much more to these connections than simply throwing a stellar event. Here's an example. Last year, SPG chairman Robert Stryk brought Stuart Jolly - one of the country's top political operatives, who previously served as National Field Director for Donald Trump's presidential campaign - into his company.

"Stuart is really one of the geniuses and brains behind this great human experiment that Donald Trump did," says Stryk, who was the connection the embassy turned to after then-Prime Minister John Key missed a call from the President-elect.

Stuart Jolly. Photo / Asico Photo
Stuart Jolly. Photo / Asico Photo

"I text Stuart Jolly and say we need to get Mr Trump to talk to the Prime Minister of New Zealand. Within 30 minutes this man got us the private cellphone of Mr Trump," says Stryk.

"I walk into the Ambassador's residence, I said 'Ambassador, you don't know me - you have 15 minutes or this phone number will change.' He makes a call. It happens."

Groser emphasises that business can only be developed on the basis of trusted relationships. "We are at the relationship building stage now - they are not even [yet] the Administration. But we have got off to a flying start."

It's counter-intuitive for Groser - with his orthodox trade credentials and a stellar professional career behind him as a diplomat, former NZ Trade Minister, candidate for the WTO's top job and one of the architects of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) - to now use his diplomatic skills to build links with an Administration which is focused on scrapping international trade certainties.

John Goldberg, a former adviser with the House Committee on Agriculture, observes that some embassies are cutting back staff as they see the incoming Administration as anti-trade. But he says the TPP - which was due to be canned by Trump in one of his first acts as President - could yet be broken down into separate individual bilateral agreements.

"Right now is an opportunity to build those relationships and double down on the trade agenda," says Goldberg.

He [Trump] gets about three-four hours of sleep. He works at it quite late at night and then he does his tweets.

SHARE THIS QUOTE:

The ambassador just has to "hold his nose and get on with it", added another well-placed Washington consultant.

Groser says the embassy is building a unique platform from which to solidify the political relationship between the new Administration and Prime Minister Bill English's Government. "Getting access to President Trump will be everybody's ambition."

Adds Beresford: "We obviously want to build commercial relationships too."

She is focused on building links with "incredibly high net worth people" who want to invest in New Zealand, and had ensured several were at the gala.

"We've got the early mover advantage I would say and it's been very, very lucky for us," says Beresford.

As for Salem Media, its PR director David Spady says they were very fortunate to be part of the election from the media standpoint.

"We are a conservative media group that understands elections have consequences.

"This was a consequential election and we are very pleased with what we have seen so far with Cabinet appointments and the vision for this incoming Administration.

"We want to be part of that and we are glad to be 'kicking it with Kiwis'."