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Asia Minute: Biden Making Unusual Stop in New Zealand

Marc Nozell / Flickr
Marc Nozell / Flickr

Vice President Joe Biden is starting the week in Australia. Biden was in Hawai‘i at the end of last week, where he observed the Rim of the Pacific military exercises. After a few days in Australia, Biden will head to an unusual destination for a US vice president: New Zealand. HPR’s Bill Dorman has details in today’s Asia Minute.

The last time an American vice president went to New Zealand, Fleetwood Mac, the Eagles and the Bee Gees were wrestling for the top of the music pop charts, Annie Hall won the Oscar for Best Picture, and Jimmy Carter was in the White House.

It was 1978 when Walter Mondale touched down in Wellington.  A UPI article previewing the visit carried the headline “New Zealand Wants to Talk Trade, Economy with Mondale.”  Specifically, the government wanted to loosen trade restrictions around New Zealand beef.  That year, all meat exports from New Zealand to the US totaled less than $200 million dollars. 

Last year, New Zealand exports of beef alone to the US came to nearly one and a half billion dollars.  Nearly 40 years later, trade is still near the top of the bi-lateral agenda.  This time it’s the Trans Pacific Partnership—the TPP…which includes New Zealand, but now faces opposition from both of the main US presidential candidates.

Security is another topic—the South China Sea…ISIS…other regional Pacific issues.  Media in New Zealand are speculating Biden’s trip might decrease the odds of a visit by President Obama before he leaves office.  So far, only two sitting presidents have gone to New Zealand—Lyndon Johnson…and Bill Clinton.

Bill Dorman has been the news director at Hawaiʻi Public Radio since 2011.
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