Minister of Foreign Affairs Nanaia Mahuta. Photo / Alex Burton
Foreign Minister Nanaia Mahuta has acknowledged and congratulated President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, noting Biden’s previous visit to New Zealand.
And she paid special tribute to Harris, saying she would bring “some very unique attributes to their leadership” as the first female Vice President of color.
Mahuta, who was sworn in as Foreign Minister on Friday, spoke to the media this morning following Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s congratulatory message to Biden.
He said New Zealand had a warm relationship with Biden when he was Vice President Barack Obama.
“He visited here in 2016, met a number of people and according to everyone enjoyed himself.
“I anticipate that there will be ongoing warm talks in areas of common interest such as Covid-19, such as trade, such as the issue of global economic recovery.
“We enjoy our relationship with them. We want to continue to strengthen that relationship, and under the new regime there are opportunities for greater cooperation.”
He will not be interested in Donald Trump debating the outcome or whether he might refuse to physically leave the White House.
Trump’s ongoing legal battle is a US problem, he said.
Asked whether Trump’s behavior to be outgoing president, Mahuta said: “It’s for American voters, really, to decide the level of that behavior but they have made their decision known through the election.”
Asked about the US joining the Trans-Pacific Partnership and rejoining the Paris climate agreement, Mahuta said New Zealand would prioritize issues for discussion once Biden’s agenda became clearer in January next year.
“My priority area today is to congratulate President-elect Biden and recognize Kamala Harris … this is an exciting time for them.”
He said the world was looking at New Zealand’s successful Covid-19 response.
“That’s why other countries are looking for us.”
He won’t be interested in whether his predecessor in Foreign Affairs, Winston Peters, might be New Zealand’s next ambassador to Washington.
Ardern said this morning the relationship between New Zealand and the US was strong.
“I hope to develop closer ties with the future Biden Administration,” he said.
“As Vice President, Joe Biden is a close friend of New Zealand and visited here in 2016, the most senior US politician to have done so since President Bill Clinton attended APEC in 1999.
“New Zealand will continue to work side by side with the United States on issues that are important to both of us, including prosperity, security and sustainability in the Indo-Pacific and Pacific Islands region.
The campaign by the President-elect has also demonstrated the common interest we have in addressing global challenges such as Covid-19 and climate change.
“There are many challenges ahead of the international community at this time, the message of unity from Joe Biden positions us well for the challenge.”
He also acknowledged President Donald Trump’s exit.
“New Zealand has enjoyed positive and cooperative relations with the United States during the Trump administration period, particularly in the Indo-Pacific and Pacific Islands,” Ardern said.
Biden is set to become the 46th President of the United States, after he crossed the required 270 Electoral College votes with victory in Pennsylvania this morning (NZ time).
He said in a statement that he was “respected and humbled”.
“It is time for America to unite and heal,” he said. “We are the United States. And there’s nothing we can’t do, if we do it together.”
After the TV network called a race for Biden, Trump said in a statement that Biden was “rushing to pretend to be a winner” and said it was “far from over”.
“Starting Monday, our campaign will start prosecuting our case in court to ensure the election law is fully enforced and the rightful winner is seated.”
“I will not stop until the American People have the honest vote count they deserve and the demands of Democracy,” Trump said in the statement.
Mahuta is expected to speak about what the Biden presidency means for New Zealand.
Ardern has previously spoken of the importance of rules-based multilateralism, in stark contrast to Trump’s and America First’s doctrines of protectionism.
Ardern has joined British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, French President Emmanuel Macron, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and other world leaders in congratulating him.