United States Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano is meeting Prime Minister John Key and other ministers in Wellington today during her first visit to New Zealand.
She signed a statement of intent this morning with Customs Minister Maurice Williamson and Immigration Minister Nathan Guy to work more closely against people trafficking, improving border security and stopping transnational crime.
"Our two nations may be oceans apart but we are both tied to the same global economy and the same international transportation networks and we must work together to protect them,'' she said.
Asked if she would be discussing the case of Megaupload millionaire Kim Dotcom, whom the United States is attempting to extradite on criminal copyright charges, she said: "I don't think so. That is in the judicial process now and it's not my practice to comment on something once it's in that process.''
Mr Williamson said before their formal talks that they would be discussing the Smartgate system, which allows travellers a fast-track through passport control, with a view to expanding it beyond Australian and New Zealand passport holders to trusted United States travellers.
Mr Williamson paid tribute to the "outstanding'' use of the Automated Targeting System - Global to help with security during the Rugby World Cup last year.
"It allowed us to provide an enormous amount of security to our nation at a time when there were huge numbers of people coming through the border.''
Mr Williamson said the statement was a platform for an invigorated work programme that would support the goals of secure, facilitated trade and travel.
"It enables us to work closely together to expand our targeting work, to achieve more effective interventions with high risk persons and to facilitate legitimate travel.''
Ms Napolitano's visit coincides with the first anniversary of the killing of Osama bin Laden in Pakistan last year.
Her department was set up in the wake of the September 11 terrorist attacks on the United States.
She had been due to attend the US-NZ Partnership Forum in Christchurch last year, which was caught up in the earthquake but cancelled because of a domestic crisis.
- APNZBy Audrey Young Email Audrey