Clark Visits Oval Office
Helen Clark made an official visit to Washington last month, in what was her second such meeting with President Bush and just the third between NZ and US leaders in the last 24 years. Bush described Clark as a “straightforward honest woman who cares deeply about the country she represents” and praised NZ’s leadership on Pacific problems. Counter-terrorism, the increased US role in the Pacific and trade were also discussed, with Clark now confident that a free trade agreement with the US is not “a question of if … [but] a question of when.” The meeting marked a historic turning point on the issue of NZ’s nuclear-free stance, with Bush conceding that the majority of New Zealanders supported the policy and the US would no longer actively seek to change it. Following her lunch at the White House, Clark met with numerous other high-profile US figures, including Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice, US Trade Representative Susan Schwab, Defence Secretary Robert Gates, House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi and influential Democrat Senator Barbara Boxer.