A senior United States official has confirmed President Barack Obama will try to visit New Zealand this year.
Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific Islands Matt Matthews said the President would visit “schedule permitting”. Obama would be only the third US President to visit if he makes it.
A New Zealand visit has been on the President’s radar since Prime Minister John Key’s last visit to the White House in 2014 when Obama told media: “We are going to be working with my schedule to see what I can come up with – if not this year then certainly before the end of my presidency.”
Matthews said Key and Obama had a “very close relationship, real friendship in fact”.
One possible date for a presidential visit is June when the annual New Zealand-US strategic dialogue is held.
Matthews said there would be other high level US officials visiting during that period to keep the “momentum” going in the New Zealand-US relationship.
Another milestone in the New Zealand-US relationship could be reached this year if the US accepts an invitation to take part in our navy’s 75th birthday celebrations.
A presidential visit is a rare thing. It is obviously beneficial for our relationship with the US, but also is good for tourism as images of NZ get beamed around the world.