United States and New Zealand

Pacific Partners


On March 26-27, 2018, CSIS organized a conference in Auckland, New Zealand—"United States and New Zealand: Pacific Partners” This conference gathered key thinkers from both countries at an important time for the New Zealand-U.S. strategic partnership. The scope of cooperation between New Zealand and the United States has never been greater–extending beyond traditional defense, intelligence, and public engagement—and it enjoys healthy support among policymakers and the wider public in both countries. Bilateral economic, social, and cultural ties are broad and deep. The two countries work globally to build a more peaceful and prosperous world, including by working together closely to ensure the stability and security of the Indo-Pacific region, by preventing the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and by actively safeguarding and studying the unique natural environment of Antarctica.
Yet the New Zealand-U.S. strategic partnership faces growing external and internal challenges. The United States, New Zealand, and other allies and partners face rising threats globally from terrorism, financial instability, pandemic diseases, and other transnational challenges. Revisionist powers are seeking to reshape regional security dynamics and carve out spheres of influence, jeopardizing the liberal rules-based order that has supported U.S. and New Zealand security and prosperity for more than half a century. The risks of threat miscalculation and conflict are growing, as is the prospect of proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.
At the same time, resources available to solve these problems are constrained. Economic dislocation and stagnant wages are generating a wave of populist and protectionist sentiment in many parts of the world that risks undermining governance and prompting a return to zero-sum, mercantilist economic policies. Moreover, U.S. political divisions and some policy choices are exacerbating allies’ concerns about the future of–or kind of–U.S. global leadership.
Many of these issues are playing out in the contemporary New Zealand debate, with public conversations on how New Zealand should navigate in this environment, including its partnership with the United States. Recent opinion polls also suggest doubts about U.S. staying power as well as the region’s growing affinity with and economic ties to China.
These trends raise new questions about the future of the partnership in domestic, bilateral, and international contexts that we must address. They also highlight the increasingly complex challenges facing U.S. and New Zealand partnership managers; the importance of not taking the strategic partnership for granted; the need for fresh ideas about the strategic partnership; and the need to engage a broader range of stakeholders, including a new generation of strategic thinkers in New Zealand and the United States.

Dr. Amy Searight is senior adviser and director of Southeast Asia Program at CSIS.

The conference and this report were made possible with support from the U.S. Department of State.

This report is produced by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), a private, tax- exempt institution focusing on international public policy issues. Its research is nonpartisan and nonproprietary. CSIS does not take specific policy positions. Accordingly, all views, positions, and conclusions expressed in this publication should be understood to be solely those of the author(s).

© 2018 by the Center for Strategic and International Studies. All rights reserved.