It was a daunting assignment but always being up for a challenge I decided to accept it.

Interviewing for an hour a man I'd never met before in front of a full auditorium of academics, students and business people at the Auckland Business School was a risk.

What if the interviewee was a retiring type, the sort who gives monosyllabic answers in a language that goes over my head but would be understood by the informed audience?

After a lot of research my mind was put at rest, given the top-notch jobs the interviewee had held down, the last as the financial controller of Mitt Romney's American presidential election campaign and who would have had an input into which jobs went where heading the transition committee. So surely this man would be no wilting violet.


Chris Liddell had also been the boss at Carter Holt Harvey here in the '90s before heading off to the United States to become the chief financial officer for Microsoft and then steered General Motors through the global financial crisis before turning his hand to politics.

The hour flew by and Liddell had plenty to say about everything.

During the last oddball American election campaign Liddell invited me to lunch in midtown Manhattan. He loves Kiwis, always greeting you with a bear hug, the sort of thing you'd expect from a boy from Matamata, a stone's throw away from where Jacinda Ardern grew up in Morrinsville.

Over lunch Liddell seemed to have little truck for Trump and like the rest of us had some doubts about whether he'd make it.

Well Trump has and so has Liddell, who by the President's own reckoning is now in line to become his top economic adviser. The last one walked because he couldn't talk Trump out of the hefty tariffs on steel and aluminium coming into effect by the end of next week and was obviously treated something like an apprentice by the President in his former incarnation as a reality telly show host.

Ardern's never met Liddell but her Trade Minister David Parker has, describing him as a loyal New Zealander which is just what we could need to curb the excesses of the Don.

We're now trying to get an exemption from the tariffs on the $62 million worth of metal we export stateside every year, a droplet in the American steel and aluminium bucket.

Our argument would be music to Trump's ears though, given that the trade between our two countries is ever so slightly in their favour which is the way he wants it to be.

And who better to sing it than a Kiwi voice in the Oval Office?