ACT rescinds support for Chris Liddell's nomination as OECD Secretary-General after 'failure to denounce' riot at US Capitol

Chris Liddell.
Chris Liddell. Photo credit: Getty Images

The ACT Party is no longer supporting Chris Liddell's nomination as Secretary-General of the OECD following his "failure to denounce" the riot at the US Capitol last week.

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 US President Donald 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.

At the time, the Green Party urged the Government not to back Liddell for the high-profile 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 Simon Bridges, who was the National Party's foreign affairs spokesperson at the time, said the Government should back Liddell and show support for a fellow New Zealander because it's in the country's best interest to do so.

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

"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."

ACT deputy leader Brooke van Velden agreed with Bridges at the time that New Zealand should back him and said the Greens' opposition is "further evidence" they should be "nowhere near power". 

Ghahraman hit back at van Velden's remarks on Twitter, saying "Aotearoa just overwhelmingly voted for governance by values", referring to Labour's landslide election victory that month. "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".

Donald Trump and Chris Liddell.
Donald Trump and Chris Liddell. Photo credit: Getty Images

But van Velden says ACT has now changed its view of Liddell following the recent riot at the Capitol.

"There is obvious value to having a New Zealander in such a prominent international role, such as when Mike Moore headed the World Trade Organisation, and that was the spirit in which I commented on Mr Liddell's candidacy," she told Newshub. 

"Following Mr Liddell's failure to denounce recent events, ACT can no longer support him in his candidacy."

Liddell told the NZ Herald on Thursday he is "horrified" at the riots and "unconditionally" condemns them.

National Party leader Judith Collins said in November there are "certain things governments need to do", one of which is to "back New Zealanders".

"I would have thought it's a no-brainer for the Government to do the right thing - back Chris Liddell unless they've got some other New Zealander who they think has got a better chance," she told RNZ.

On Tuesday, Collins didn't say whether the party no longer supports Liddell's nomination, but believes his connection to Trump shouldn't be ignored.

"The rioting that took place in the US Capitol was a disgraceful attack on democracy that has rightly tarnished those who incited and enabled the violence," she told Newshub.

"Mr Liddell's ties to the Trump Administration cannot be overlooked here, making it difficult to see how he would be suitable to uphold the OECD's strong commitment to democracy."

Bridges said he didn't have any additional comments to make, other than he agrees with what Collins said.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said last year the final decision still hadn't been made over who Cabinet will support for the role, and citizenship isn't the only thing to take into account.

Interviews for the Secretary-General role commenced this month, and as reported by Newsroom, it is unclear whether President-elect Joe Biden will support the progression of Liddell's nomination after January 20.