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President Barack Obama called New Zealand and John Key an "outstanding partner" after the pair met at the White House this morning.

But Mr Obama got Mr Key's name a little wrong, calling him Mr "Keys."

He said he was very pleased that the relationship with New Zealand was "growing stronger by the day."

He also said: "I've always been stuck by the intelligence and thoughtfulness that the Prime Minister brings to his work."

Mr Obama made mention of the Christchurch earthquake saying "we are still heartbroken" by it and he was impressed by the resilience of the people to recover from the tragedy.

Mr Obama made mention of the fact that the two foreign ministers - Hillary Clinton and Murray McCully - were in Bali together at the ASEAN Regional Forum and were looking at further ways to work together from "green growth to trying to standardise regulations to increase the flow of trade".

"And throughout this process whether it's in Apec settings, now the East Asia summit, we've always found New Zealand to be an outstanding partner.

"And Prime Minister Keys personally has always been an outstanding partner on these issues."

Referring to the sweltering heat in Washington he said Mr Key had got a warmer welcome than he expected.

Mr Key said later it had been a "tremendous" visit and he's got everything he wanted from it.

"I've got to be the luckiest Prime Minister of New Zealand in the last 25 years. I've come to Washington and every single person who we've met with from the Administration has wanted to see us, has welcomed us has thanked us for the contribution we're making and is actually genuinely acknowledged that we are playing an important role."

"He has I think a real affection for our country. He was genuinely concerned for the people of Christchurch. He is committed to trade and I think when you look at it in that perspective, we got everything out of this visit that we could have possibly wanted.

He had got an incredibly warm welcome from the President.

"The United States is 10 days away from potentially defaulting. Now no one is arguing that is going to happen but he still made time for us in amongst all of that."

He said they talked a great deal about the Trans Pacific Partnership and hoped to get a framework signed at APEC in Honolulu in November.

He said they had spoken about Afghanistan but there was no request for a longer commitment.

Mr Obama had specifically raised the role of the SAS troops in the recent attack on the Intercontinental Hotel in Kabul.

He didn't mind Mr Obama getting his name wrong.

"At the end of the day that's standard. I get that right across New Zealand let alone the United States. To be honest it's the first time he's ever used my surname; he always called me John so, hey, I'm not bothered."

He said it was a tough time for Mr Obama.

Mr Key gave Mr Obama a greenstone mere and explained it had been from the tribe that cover the Christchurch area.

Mr Obama gave Mr Key a specially made replica of the sword used by Bilbo Baggins in the Hobbit which is being made in New Zealand. It was made at the Weta workshop in New Zealand.

Asked if Mr Key had invited Mr Obama to New Zealand he said "he invited himself to New Zealand" but realistically there was no show of him coming before the next election - in November next year.

"He's got a lot of issues to deal with getting out of Washington would be a big thrill for as opposed to getting down to New Zealand but at some point that is something I think he would genuinely like to do."

First he will attend a dinner at the NZ embassy hosted by ambassador Mike Moore.

It will be focused on trade and the Trans Pacific Partnership in particular. It was not Mr Key's first visit to the White House.

He met Vice president Joe Biden there in April last year when he was in Washington.

- Read the full transcript of the comments made by John Key and Barack Obama after their meeting here.