Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has spoken to media to demonstrate to the US market that New Zealand is “open for business”, having arrived in the US yesterday.
Her trip includes meeting members of Congress and the UN Secretary-General, attending a launch event for sustainable meat exports, delivering the Harvard Commencement speech, meeting with California governor Gavin Newsom, and meeting with executives of tech giants like Twitter and Microsoft.
With US President Joe Biden in Japan for the launch, and Ardern having only just recovered from covid-19, the hoped-for meeting between the two is still up in the air, but there is optimism from the New Zealand side it will happen.
Ardern’s first event was a sit down with major American tourism media, as part of the drive to update the US market about New Zealand, and she will later meet meet with representatives of US multinational investment management firm BlackRock.
Ardern said the message of New Zealand being open for business and open for travel was really important at this time.
Travelling with a business delegation and doing as much as possible to open doors on their behalf is important, she said.
“Our high level meeting with BlackRock enabled our business delegation to sit face-to-face with a number of influential individuals in their investor sector from the United States. A really thoughtful, interesting discussion and dialogue which all of our business representatives had the chance to participate in.”
Ardern said the dominant issue discussed was sustainability.
Watch the PM speaking
One-on-one with UN chief
Ardern also had a one-on-one with the United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, where Ukraine was top of the agenda.
Ardern was keen to hear the secretary-general’s perspective on the war in Ukraine and to offer New Zealand’s support in the ongoing diplomatic work.
She said it was a chance to “discuss everything from the conflict in Ukraine to climate change and more broadly, the role that New Zealand can play in UN reform which we’ve long been an advocate and supporter of”.
“A really fruitful discussion but really useful to hear the secretary general’s reflections on the current conflict,” she said.
Ardern said that predominately the focus was on issues of climate sustainability and the war on Ukraine.
“Any reflection on the relationship between China and the United States whilst ultimately that is a matter for them, what we will continue to advocate is for peace and stability in our region, including any discussions around increasing tensions around Taiwan.”
Ardern said NZ would continue to be strong advocates of the US using the CPTPP as its port of call for a meaningful trade option.
‘An alternate framework’
“They have proposed an alternate framework, our mission as a country needs to be to keep our aspirations high but also work with what’s on the table,” she said.
“Ultimately the CPTPP is an existing framework that offers a significant amount from New Zealand’s perspective. However we will also engage with what’s currently on the table.”
Ardern does not yet have an update on a meeting with Biden.
Ardern said that having an independent foreign policy meant New Zealand had been very consistent in maintaining its values of peace, stability, the use of dialogue and the importance of multilateral institutions like the UN as an honest broker in difficult situations.
“There is tension in our region, we have our various periods of time seen escalation in language, we will constantly call, on New Zealand’s behalf and ours, on peace and stability in our region.”
The Chinese foreign minister is doing a tour of a number of Pacific nations. Ardern is not surprised by this.
“It’s not necessarily just presence, it’s the nature of that presence and the intention around it,” she said.
‘We want collaboration’
“From our perspective within our region, we’re very firm that yes, of course, we want collaboration in areas where we have shared concern, issues like climate adaptation and mitigation, we want quality investment and infrastructure in our region, we don’t want militarisation, we don’t want an escalation of tension.
“We want peace and stability so we will remain firm in our values.”
She said the question would continue to be whether some of those engagements were necessary.
Ardern’s day will be rounded off with a repeat appearance on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.
Just before departing New Zealand, she virtually attended the launch of the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework, an alliance of 13 countries including New Zealand that proposes joint efforts on climate change and digital issues but is widely considered a US attempt to limit China’s economic influence.
The IPEF also includes the members of “the Quad” – the US, Australia, India and Japan – who have been meeting in Tokyo, along with Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, Thailand and Vietnam.
Together, the grouping represents 40 percent of the world’s GDP.
This article is republished under a community partnership agreement with RNZ.