Donald Trump's nomination of Kiwi Chris Liddell as OECD secretary-general divides MPs in New Zealand

US President Donald Trump and his deputy chief of staff for policy coordination Chris Liddell.
US President Donald Trump and his deputy chief of staff for policy coordination Chris Liddell. Photo credit: File

US President Donald Trump's nomination of Kiwi Chris Liddell for one of the world's top jobs has divided MPs in New Zealand over whether the Government should back him too. 

Liddell, a dual citizen of the United States and New Zealand, is a Republican and currently serves in the White House as an assistant to President Trump. He is currently deputy chief of staff for policy coordination. 

The Matamata-born businessman was nominated by Trump in September to be secretary-general of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). It is a group of nations - including New Zealand - that represents about 80 percent of world trade and investment.

Liddell, 62, has held several high-profile positions over the years including chief financial officer at Microsoft and vice-chairman of General Motors. In 2010 he was awarded New Zealand Business Leader of the Year.

The New Zealand Government has backed Kiwis for global positions before. In 2016 Sir John Key's Government nominated former Prime Minister Helen Clark for the role of United Nations secretary-general in 2016, for which she was unsuccessful. 

But the Greens are urging the Government not to back Liddell for the high-profile OECD role because of his close connection to the Trump administration.

"Trumpish anti-science, anti-cooperation politics have no place in international governance," Green Party foreign affairs spokesperson Golriz Ghahraman said on Twitter. "Right now, it is literally dangerous to back a man who helped lead America's disastrous COVID-19 response."

But National's foreign affairs spokesperson Simon Bridges thinks the Government should back Liddell and show support for a fellow New Zealander because it's in the country's interest to do so. 

"It would be a foot in the door for New Zealand. It would be incredible access," Bridges told Stuff. 

"I accept that a lot of people will confuse his role with Mr Trump's and be dubious about that in New Zealand. From the little I know him - having met him but not knowing him well - he will have his own views, not simply those of the current President."

Liddell also has the backing of ACT's deputy leader Brooke van Velden who agreed with Bridges that New Zealand should back him and that the Greens' opposition is "further evidence" they should be "nowhere near power". 

Ghahraman hit back at van Velden's remarks on Twitter. 

"Aotearoa just overwhelmingly voted for governance by values," she said, referring to Labour's landslide election victory. "That would be eroded if a guy like Liddell was the head of a governance body like the OECD." 

Ghahraman said the Greens are "super proud NOT to back terrible people based on their nationality below", adding that van Velden's comments were "astoundingly backward".

Australia has nominated its Minister for Finance Senator Mathias Cormann as its candidate for the OECD role, and New Zealand may be asked to support him rather than Liddell. But Bridges thinks Australia would accept that New Zealand would back one if its own. 

Nominations for the OECD position are still open and a spokesperson for the Prime Minister has said the Government will make a decision when the nominations close.