Tomorrow night's opening of the US-NZ Partnership Forum in Washington DC will be an "unprecedented" gathering of business, government and academic leaders from both countries, according to NZ US Council Executive Director Stephen Jacobi.
US representatives include senior executives from Boeing, Citigroup, Disney, EDS, TimeWarner and Weyerhaeuser as well as the Chamber of Commerce, National Association of Manufacturers, Dairy Farmers of America and the Food Products Association.
Members of the Bush Administration who will participate include Hon Frank Lavin, Under Secretary for International Trade at the Department of Commerce, Hon Paula Dobriansky, Under Secretary of State for Global Affairs and Hon Chris Hill, Assistant Secretary of State for East Asia and the Pacific.
The Minister of Trade and Minister of Defence Phil Goff, will address the Forum as will Dr Don Brash, Leader of the National Party, who is visiting
But one prominent figure will be conspicuous by his absence.
Foreign Minister Winston Peters is currently in Europe. He held meetings with the European Union Presidency in Vienna today, and will travel to Moscow tonight for consultations with Russian Foreign Minister Segei Lavrov. Visits to the United Kingdon and Ireland are scheduled after that.
Mr Peters will miss what could prove to be a crucial moment in the ongoing thaw in relations between Washington and Wellington.
Strong pockets of support
"New Zealand has pockets of very strong support in Washington, in Congress and the Administration and in senior levels of business. We have a leading New Zealand delegation and I'm looking forward to a quality exchange," Mr Jacobi said.
The forum, which takes place over 20 - 22 April, has been organised by the New Zealand United States Council and its Washington-based counterpart, the United States New Zealand Council.
John Mullen, President of the US NZ Council said the 30-plus representatives from US Government, business and the academic community were a good mix of influential commercial and government figures.
"The American participants are already aware of the importance of links with New Zealand and they are looking for ways to expand the relationship even further," he said.