John Key cheekily suggests the Trump Administration should take lessons from the All Blacks' playbook when it comes to the impact of erecting barriers to trade.

"You can't imagine saying to the All Blacks, 'you can't play offshore for five years'," he said at the recent NZ Trade and Enterprise international business awards.

"You might become fat and maybe happy, but over a period of time you become less competitive and lose." The Prime Minister is obviously taking a highly pragmatic approach to the Trump presidency, by smoothing fears in the NZ business community that it will lead to a new wave of protectionism.

He has teased a number of propositions in business circles as he urges them to take the presidential election outcome in their stride and "don't get despondent".


At NZTE's awards, he dispelled the notion that Trump might change his mind on trade.

The fact was, New Zealand was a little country at the bottom of the world - "no one owes us a living". But New Zealand has got its house in order. It would get increasingly wealthy by selling things to the rest of the world.

For those who believe a Trump-led America might start slapping on tariffs - think again about who would be harmed by that move.

It would end up in the US harming itself, as other trade partners took their business elsewhere.

"Is the world going to stop trading because Donald Trump is fundamentally opposed, or do things in spite of the US?", Key questioned.

Key takes the view that other nations - particularly China - will fill any void or vacuum left by the US.

Listening to the Prime Minister's spiel (as I have several times since the election) it at times seems as if he is trying to convince himself.

But Key is also talking to another important constituency - the US.


His messaging is deliberate.

The Trump presidency has - along with Brexit - changed the game in international trade.

It has changed New Zealand's order of priorities when it comes to nailing international trade agreements. The regional comprehensive agreement negotiations, which include China, have taken a new importance. And because of the Brexit fallout, Trade Minister Todd McClay is having to focus on getting Britain to the table for a bilateral deal as well as finalising the European free trade deal already underway.

It's obvious the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade needs more funds to deal with the new negotiating environment and to position New Zealand in Trump's Washington.

So, given the Trump presidency, why is New Zealand still contributing to the Clinton Foundation?

Key admits to being surprised at recent revelations about the foundation.

It's been described as a "family firm" and "a slush fund". Importantly, it's been at the centre of an FBI investigation.

While Trump says he no longer wants to personally pursue the Clintons, there is still enough of a stench around the campaign's "pay for play" allegations to suggest New Zealand should look carefully at its continued support.

This foundation was set up after Bill Clinton left the presidency, after eight years in office.

But while Australia has now turned off the funding tap, our Foreign Ministry says it will continue supporting the foundation's flagship project.

Mfat plans to donate a further $6 million towards the Clinton Health Access Initiative, which is understood to be at arm's length.

But how will this be read in Washington?

Key was surprised to find how little the former candidate Hillary Clinton was liked in Wall Street - even though she was the beneficiary of considerable Wall Street donations.

He is also leaning on Silicon Valley entrepreneur Peter Thiel's comments as a rationale for why many were surprised at Trump's victory.

As Thiel said: "the media is always taking Trump literally. It never takes him seriously, but it always takes him literally."

The billionaire reckoned Trump supporters saw it differently. "I think a lot of voters who vote for Trump take Trump seriously but not literally, so when they hear things like the Muslim comment or the wall comment, their question is not, 'Are you going to build a wall like the Great Wall of China?' or, you know, 'How exactly are you going to enforce these tests?' What they hear is we're going to have a saner, more sensible immigration policy."

Expect to hear more from the PM on this score, as he comes to terms with the Trump presidency and endeavours to explain to New Zealanders, "why the change?"