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'A place of large egos': PM wraps up meetings with Republicans on Capitol Hill

Claire Trevett,
Publish Date
Thu, 11 Jul 2024, 10:05am

'A place of large egos': PM wraps up meetings with Republicans on Capitol Hill

Claire Trevett,
Publish Date
Thu, 11 Jul 2024, 10:05am

Prime Minister Christopher Luxon has put in a final sprint on Capitol Hill ahead of his meetings with Nato leaders this afternoon, meeting key Republican figures and the high-powered Ways and Means Committee.  

Luxon will meet French President Emmanuel Macron, Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Estonia’s Prime Minister Kaja Kallas later today.  

However, he spent the morning back on Capitol Hill meeting with Republicans Senator Bill Hagerty and Congressman Jason Smith, who chairs the Ways and Means Committee.  

He was also due to meet high-profile Texas Senator Ted Cruz, but that had to be cancelled because Cruz could not return from Texas in time.  

Asked whether Cruz was the most influential of those he was meeting, Luxon noted others might disagree.  

“I’m sure many other senators would argue they were just as influential, if not more. This is a place of large egos.”  

And as he met with the Republicans, Luxon was again confronted with questions about US President Joe Biden after an opinion piece by George Clooney – a lifelong Democrat – calling on Biden to step aside and make way for a new nominee. 

Luxon deflected the question by suggesting Clooney be cast as his Police Minister Mark Mitchell in the event there was a movie about Mitchell’s life. 

Hagerty and Cruz are Trump supporters and have been mentioned on the admittedly long list of potential running mates for Donald Trump. Cruz is also considered likely to run for selection for the presidency again in the future, after first standing against Trump in 2016. 

Hagerty is considered a potential future Secretary of State – he was previously the US Ambassador in Tokyo. 

Asked whether he was courting politicians who would be influential in a future Trump presidency, Luxon said he was meeting with both Democrats and Republicans because it was important to position New Zealand well with key figures – and those who could be key in the future. 

“Senators and committees in the system are really powerful, really influential and it’s really important to have direct relationships with them. I’m meeting with everybody, because my job is, irrespective of who wins the election in November, I have to work with everybody.” 

The Ways and Means Committee handles the budget, taxation and trade and is one of the most powerful committees. 

Trump has proposed new tariffs on trade. Luxon said he would emphasise to that committee that New Zealand was a trading nation and “big champions” of free trade. 

It is chaired by Jason Smith, who visited New Zealand in January. Luxon’s path was smoothed by Foreign Minister Winston Peters, who had taken Smith fishing in Northland during his stay. 

PM Christopher Luxon meets Jason Smith, the Republican Congressman from Missouri, in Washington DC. 11 July 2024. Photo / Supplied by PM's staffPM Christopher Luxon meets Jason Smith, the Republican Congressman from Missouri, in Washington DC. 11 July 2024. Photo / Supplied by PM's staff 


Meetings with Nato leaders 

He will head to the Nato Summit later this morning for a long line-up of bilateral meetings, including with Macron, Canada’s Justin Trudeau, and Kallas. 

He said he would talk to Trudeau about the CPTPP, and confirmed he would raise the ongoing dispute New Zealand has with Canada over the access for dairy products. The pair are also likely to discuss Pillar 2 of the Aukus agreement. 

He expected the situation in New Caledonia to be a topic of conversation with Macron, after recent civil unrest there over a proposal to extend voting rights for French citizens, opposed by the local Kanaks. That reform was suspended due to the French elections. 

He had not yet had a chance to talk to new British PM Keir Starmer, but he said he had also met about 13 leaders at the 75th Anniversary dinner last night. 

“I spoke to everyone from the German Chancellor right down to the Iceland Prime Minister.” He said those meetings were quite informal and relaxed. 

“I enjoy meeting the leaders because at the end of the day we’re all wrestling with the same problems. As an extrovert I enjoy those forums and it’s a good opportunity to get a sense of what’s going on in their country, what they’re wrestling with.” 

Ukraine and the Indo-Pacific 4 

Tomorrow Luxon will be chairing the meeting of the Indo-Pacific Four with Nato – Australia, Korea, Japan and New Zealand, attended by Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. 

Luxon said it was important New Zealand took a stand on Ukraine. 

New Zealand has so far contributed about $130 million in support for Ukraine and Luxon said it would likely increase. 

“We want to ensure the rules-based system is maintained. The reality is New Zealand has done exceptionally well since World War II because there has been peace and stability under that system. But that is under threat.” 

He said that was why there was a determination to stand up for those values. 

“People say to me, ‘you’re so far away from Ukraine, why have you invested $130 million of Kiwi taxpayers dollars into that?’ Because we believe in these principles, and if you believe in things you should do something about it.” 

He said they would continue to hold that conversation and look for opportunities to support Ukraine. He said there was confidence that Ukraine could win that, backed by Nato and other supporters. 

“We have to win this. It’s actually quite seminal and quite critical to our collective values that we all believe in. That’s why we are here as part of the I-P 4.” 

He said there were also flashpoints in the Indo-Pacific and those raised similar concerns. 

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