Ministers won't censure Moore for attending tobacco bash

Two cabinet ministers have rejected calls to censure Mike Moore, New Zealand's ambassador to the United States.

Both Trade Minister Tim Groser and Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully have come out behind Mr Moore's attendance at a Trans Pacific Partnership lobbying bash in Washington, following his presence being condemned by Auckland University law professor, Jane Keley, a known critic of the proposed agreement, Maori Party co-leader Tariana Turia who questioned Mr Moore's judgement, and Mana Party leader Hone Harawiria, who called for Mr Moore to be sacked..

However, Mr Groser told NBR that he fully supported Mr Moore speaking at the evening.

"The occasion was an important event on the trade policy calendar in Washington DC, and the invitation to Ambassador Moore to speak was a mark of the high regard in which he is held," Mr Groser said.

"His attendance at the event was not a signal for his or the government's support for any of [its] 13 sponsors."

One of those sponsors was cigarette maker Philip Morris, which led to the withdrawal of Australian US ambassador Kim Beazley from the event, a move that did not surprise Mr Groser.

"I am aware that Kim Beazley withdrew from the event at that request of his government," Mr Groser said.

"Australia's withdrawal is understandable - the Australian government is currently defending legal action by Philip Morris over Australia's law to require tobacco products to be sold in plain packaging."

Mr Groser's stance was backed by Mr McCully, who told NBR that Mr Moore was one of a large number of senior and influential figures who attended a Washington event promoting the Trans Pacific Partnership.

"The fact that a tobacco company was one of numerous sponsors is of no concern to me," Mr McCully said.

"That Ambassador Moore was invited to speak at an event that also featured US trade representative Ron Kirk and several State governors is a mark of the high regard in which our ambassador is held."

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