United States ambassador to New Zealand Mark Gilbert visited Hawke's Bay yesterday, rubbing shoulders with local business people and politicians.

Mr Gilbert, a former Major League Baseball player, made his inaugural visit to the region on the invitation of US-born Havelock North businessman Hal Josephson.

Business was the main agenda for meetings at the Hawke's Bay Business Hub in Ahuriri and the Craggy Range Giants Winery in Havelock North.

"It truly has been a pleasure to be here," said Mr Gilbert in the winery grounds beneath Te Mata Peak. "Just take a picture of this and people will be flocking" to do business here, he said.


There were already many opportunities for trade between New Zealand and the US, and with the recent Trans-Pacific Partnership (TTP) trade agreement "there will be even more".

"As all of you know, this particular region of New Zealand will be a big beneficiary of TPP."

The Wellington embassy and Auckland consulate were "open for business", he said..

When asked by Hawke's Bay Today why he was meeting with exporters to his country when other countries' ambassadors focused on importers, Mr Gilbert said that building relationships was a precursor to business.

"When business happens it has a tendency to go in both directions, but what comes first is relationships," he said.

"The rest of it will take care of itself."

A wine lover, Mr Gilbert visited with his wife Nancy and said they would return to Hawke's Bay "without question".

He played for the Chicago White Sox in 1985 but his career was cut short by a knee injury.

He became a merchant banker and was an early supporter of Barack Obama's successful campaign for US President.

Mr Obama nominated Mr Gilbert for his ambassadorial role, which he took up early this year.