Key Points:

Foreign Minister Winston Peters last night put forward a case for improving relations with the United States, saying New Zealand could not work alone to achieve international peace, prosperity and security.

"The reality is that it's just not possible to get very far on these goals without the United States on board," he said in a speech to a business awards dinner in Auckland organised by the American Chamber of Commerce in New Zealand.

"By the same token, the United States cannot do everything itself, either. It also needs friends and partners, both on big global issues and on tricky regional concerns."

Mr Peters has made improving the relationship with the US a priority since he became Foreign Minister.

"It is not about sudden, big breakthroughs but about making solid, sustainable, cumulative progress over time," he said.

"It is focused on examining all the areas and issues that are important to both governments, and checking that our co-operation in these areas is at its fullest - all the time respecting each other's unique policy positions."

Mr Peters said his meeting in Washington in July with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice had been an excellent chance for direct discussions. "Since then it has been pleasing to be in regular contact with the Secretary over matters such as North Korea's nuclear test."

Mr Peters said consistent contact would bring closer the possibility of negotiations on a free trade agreement, because it would ensure this country was on the US radar.

"Just last week, senior officials in the State Department were saying that America would like very much to see a free trade agreement happen," he said.

The Government was working hard to improve the relationship so that when the US was able to look again at taking on new partners "we are a natural early thought".