Now the real work be­gins for Ardern

The Dominion Post - - Front Page - TRACY WATKINS

OPIN­ION: There might have been a party at­mos­phere for Jacinda Ardern’s first pub­lic out­ing in Auck­land on Satur­day – but by yes­ter­day it was down to busi­ness.

Week one of the new Govern­ment starts now – and Ardern has a huge agenda to get through be­fore Christ­mas. The most press­ing is nail­ing down the shape of a ban on for­eign house-buy­ers be­fore Ardern leaves for the Apec lead­ers fo­rum in Viet­nam.

There have been so many ‘‘big tests’’ of Ardern’s lead­er­ship, it’s be­com­ing al­most a cliche. But Apec and the for­eign buy­ers ban is big. Ardern will be seated at the ta­ble for the first time with other world lead­ers, in­clud­ing United States Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump.

One of the big is­sues will be the Trans Pa­cific Part­ner­ship Agree­ment (TPP), a gi­ant free trade deal. Labour has pegged its sup­port for the TPP on suc­cess­fully ne­go­ti­at­ing a clause al­low­ing a ban on for­eign­ers buy­ing ex­ist­ing prop­erty in New Zealand.

While Amer­ica’s exit from the TPP has gut­ted it of its orig­i­nal po­tency, there is still a will among the 11 re­main­ing mem­ber na­tions, in­clud­ing the all-im­por­tant Ja­pan, to sol­dier on. So, as an eco­nomic boost, it is still hugely im­por­tant for our ex­porters.

There had been hopes of reach­ing broad agree­ment on the fringes of this Apec – which is why Ardern is rac­ing to fi­nalise the shape of the for­eign buy­ers ban be­fore she leaves in two weeks.

It’s not just that she needs the mech­a­nism for a ban nailed down be­fore New Zealand can en­ter into fur­ther ne­go­ti­a­tions; it’s also im­por­tant that Ardern makes one of her first big an­nounce­ments to a do­mes­tic au­di­ence, rather than de­liver it to an in­ter­na­tional au­di­ence first.

So ex­pect Ardern to come out with an an­nounce­ment, prob­a­bly even be­fore the speech from the throne next week, when she will out­line her Govern­ment’s agenda for the next three years.

Ardern won’t be the only one work­ing to get the de­tail right; her fi­nance and trade min­is­ters and of­fi­cials will be work­ing round the clock to agree on a mech­a­nism that sat­is­fies our ne­go­ti­at­ing part­ners.

Ardern’s rhetoric so far has made it clear she has no in­ten­tion of walk­ing away from the TPP or caus­ing the ne­go­ti­a­tions to fall over as a re­sult of the pol­icy change.

She is clearly look­ing for a mech­a­nism that will al­low Labour to fol­low through on its prom­ise to ban for­eign spec­u­la­tors, while still en­sur­ing our place at the TPP ta­ble.

It’s a re­minder, if any­one needed it, that Ardern is a one-time stu­dent of the ul­ti­mate prag­ma­tist, He­len Clark.

It would also be hugely sym­bolic if Ardern can suc­cess­fully ne­go­ti­ate the change with­out threat­en­ing New Zealand’s place in the TPP. Na­tional claimed not just that the pol­icy was loopy, but that it couldn’t be done.

Na­tional’s cred­i­bil­ity would be hugely un­der­mined if that turned out not to be true.

So there is a lot rid­ing on this, for both sides.

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