21 Jul 2011

Washington focused on debt crisis as Key arrives

10:01 am on 21 July 2011

Prime Minister John Key is arriving in the United States capital for top level meetings, including with President Obama, as the US administration focuses on last minute debt talks.

The visit threatens to be overshadowed by the ongoing negotiations to raise the US debt ceiling by a 2 August deadline and avoid the world's largest economy potentially defaulting on its debts.

Mr Key has meetings scheduled with many of the central figures in the debt crisis including US Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner and leading Republican and Democratic senators.

His hour-long meeting with President Obama on Saturday is the centrepiece of the visit.

The US Congress is expected to sit throughout the weekend to try to resolve the stand-off over the debt ceiling.

United States-New Zealand Council president John Mullen says the debt crisis is dominating affairs in Washington, but he still expects the Prime Minister's visit to be productive.

Business goes on, he says, and the important thing is that Mr Key is meeting major players involved in the US financial system.

Mr Mullen says securing a White House visit is a big deal for a country the size of New Zealand and indicates how close a relationship the two countries have.