New US ambassador a step closer
The man United States President Barack Obama has chosen to be ambassador to New Zealand has formally accepted the nomination.
Former professional baseball player and financial high flier Mark Gilbert, 57, delivered his statement to the senate committee on foreign relations this morning (NZ time).
Gilbert is expected to replace former Ambassador David Huebner whose term ended last year, and be ambassador to both New Zealand and Samoa.
But before officially assuming the role, his appointment must be approved by the senate committee and then confirmed by the full Senate. The appointment will then go to the president's office to be signed off as ambassador-designate.
Gilbert would then travel to New Zealand and present his credentials to the governor-general.
His senate committee hearing was delayed by Republicans but today he delivered his acceptance alongside prospective US ambassadors to Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Yemen.
In his address to the committee, Gilbert said he could "imagine no higher honour" than to ambassador to New Zealand and Samoa.
"Connected by the Pacific Ocean, we have partners committed to expanding global trade and promoting democratic values while pursuing peace and security," he said.
Gilbert told the senate committee he would use his background in global finance and investment to promote a "stronger economic link between our countries - capitalising on opportunities not only to increase US investment in New Zealand, but also to expand New Zealand investment here at home".
He also mentioned New Zealand's high standing on the global stage.
"New Zealand is an active partner in the United Nations, committed to resolving conflict through negotiation," he said.
"It plays a far larger role on the world stage than the country's size would suggest. Its armed forces have led and participated in numerous peacekeeping missions around the globe and have worked side-by-side with our troops in Afghanistan.
"New Zealand is an integral link in the global effort against the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and actively works in the Asia-Pacific region on counterterrorism issues as well."
Gilbert was most recently a director at Barclays Wealth, formerly Lehman Brothers, in West Palm Beach, Florida. Before that, he was senior vice president of Goldman Sachs in Miami.
He has been a prominent fundraiser for the Democratic Party, and in 1985 enjoyed a brief career as a professional baseballer for the Chicago White Sox.
Gilbert appeared in seven games for the White Sox as an outfielder in July 1985, batting a respectable 6-for-22 (.273) with four walks in 26 plate appearances.
But a knee injury sustained diving for a batted ball forced him to have surgery, ending his major league career.
Gilbert was born in Atlanta and gained a degree in finance from Florida State University.