Hon Bill English MP National Party Leader
16 June 2003
English joins MPs on Washington trip
National Party Leader Bill English has decided to join a team of his MPs heading to Washington today to discuss foreign
affairs, trade and defence matters with Congressmen, Senators and officials in Washington.
He will accompany Foreign Affairs spokesman Wayne Mapp, Trade spokesman Lockwood Smith and Defence spokesman Simon Power
on a week-long visit, returning next Tuesday.
While the three spokesmen had planned their visit for some months, as part of National's policy review process, Mr
English said he had only recently decided to join the team and make his first visit to Washington since he became Leader
of the Opposition.
He had been influenced in this partly through the talks he had in Canberra a few weeks ago with Prime Minister John
Howard and other Australian Cabinet Ministers.
"New Zealand is obviously close to Australian foreign and defence policy, Australia's policy dovetails with America and
we need to have this squared off, too.
"We need to have a good feel for where the United States is going with the rest of the world and where their interests
overlap with ours."
The State Department is still finalising appointments because the status of the visit was upgraded at reasonably short
notice once Mr English decided to join the group. As well as meeting Senators and Congressmen, the group will make
contacts with members of the administration involved with the National Security Council, foreign relations, trade and
They will also have a dinner with US/NZ Council President Fred Benson, who is spearheading efforts for a free trade
"Achieving this agreement will be a fundamental priority of National's foreign and trade policy."
Mr English said the National MPs wanted to exchange views and make contacts first hand. Information from the trip would
be used in the policy review process.
"At the moment, foreign policy under Labour has lurched from insult to apology, to attempts to curry favour in
Washington by larger-than-expected commitments to Iraq and Afghanistan. We believe that to regain credibility our
foreign and defence policies must be reliable and long-term," said Mr English.