Key wraps up US visit
Prime Minister John Key has wrapped up his visit to the United States and meeting with Barack Obama and says it has been marked by the warmth of the president toward New Zealand.
"He has I think a real affection for our country, he was genuinely concerned for the people of Christchurch, he's committed to trade and I think when you look at it in that perspective we got everything out of this visit we personally wanted."
During their 30 minute meeting at the White House today, Obama praised New Zealand's 'outstanding' contribution in Afghanistan and referred to his relationship with Key, who he valued for his 'intelligence and thoughtfulness'.
The relationship between the two countries, meanwhile, was growing "stronger by the day".
Obama also referred to the Christchurch earthquakes, telling reporters: "obviously we are still heartbroken by the loss of life and property resulting from the earthquakes in Christchurch and are incredibly impressed by the resilience of the people of New Zealand as they rebuild from that tragedy. But both of us, having seen what happened in Japan as well, understand that when these kinds of natural disasters strike it's important for us to be able to pool our resources to help each other. "
Obama admitted Washington had extended a 'warmer welcome than perhaps you had expected' as people sheltered from extreme summer temperatures and humidity.
Before the 30 minute meeting, Key had been presented with the president's formal gift of a replica Hobbit sword that came from half way around the world - New Zealand. It was made by Weta Workshop in Wellington and the gift was organised by Hobbit backers Warner Brothers.
Key left for the Oval Office shortly before 5.30am NZT and the president said their 30 minute meeting canvassed issues including Afghanistan, economic issues, the trans-Pacific Partnership free trade agreement and also the Christchurch earthquake which had demonstrated the "resilience of the people of New Zealand".
He referred to the common values of both countries and said they had also touched on security cooperation and the two countries' cooperation on regional issues.
"Whether it's Apec settings, the East Asia summit...we've always found New Zealand to be an outstanding partner and Prime Minister Key[s] has personally been an outstanding partner on this issue."
Both the president and Key sent their condolences to the people of Norway after a bombing there early today.
Key said if it was an act of global terrorism "then I think what it shows is no country large or small is immune from risk and that's why New Zealand plays its part in Afghanistan".
Key referred to a visit to New Zealand by US marines for ceremonial purposes next year - a visit that is steeped in symbolism after a decade's old rift between the United States and New Zealand over the anti-nuclear legislation.
And he referred to the US as not just a friend but a strategic partner.
The only glitch during the short press conference was the president mispronouncing the prime minister's name as 'Keys' - but Key said later he wasn't bothered.
Even in New Zealand most people got it wrong and when Key and Obama met the president usually called him John and rarely used his last name anyway.
As the meeting wrapped up, meanwhile, some old fashioned sporting rivalry emerged after the US President referred to the Rugby World Cup.
"My understanding is the American team is heading out to New Zealand for the world rugby....Rugby World Cup. So good luck guys - although I hear the Kiwis are pretty good at rugby so I don't think we are seeded number one. But I have confidence we will acquit ourselves well."
Asked after the meeting if he had invited Obama to New Zealand, Key said the US President had "invited himself'', expressing his long standing desire to make it down under.
Realistically that was not an option in the next 12 months but he would not rule it out, Key said.