Ardern faces global press-the-flesh year
She has made her entrance on the international stage but there is still an array of firsts for Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern to tick off.
This year may be seen as her first full entry into the foreign political circuit and while she can’t do them all, here is a list of some of the international engagements Ardern might have on her radar. Meeting the leaders Britain: One of our closest relations, and Ardern does still have to meet the Queen of New Zealand too. That’s likely to occur when she attends the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in London, in April. A bilateral talk with British Prime Minister Theresa May is bound to be one of many leader-to-leader meetings on the cards as well.
Australia: The New Zealand and Australia prime ministers meet at least once every year, and it is New Zealand’s turn to travel there. While Ardern has travelled to Sydney to meet Malcolm Turnbull, it was an hours-long trip to ensure the pair had met before crossing paths again at Apec a couple of weeks later.
United States: A big one, notwithstanding the fact it is not entirely clear US President Donald Trump initially knew who he was meeting when the pair got a chance to chat briefly on the outskirts of Apec in Vietnam last year. But it is always a logistically tough one to organise, and so may not be fast in happening. If Ardern attends the United Nations General Assembly in New York, then a meeting on the fringes could occur around September.
European Union: A trip to the European Union this year is surely high on the cards for Ardern, given a free trade deal is a priority for both parties. Formal talks were expected to launch at the end of last year, and both sides expect to have them concluded by 2021.
China: The last visit of a New Zealand leader to China was by John Key in April 2016. The relationship with China has always been an important one and an upgrade to the free trade agreement is under way. A visit or an invitation to host Chinese dignitaries here, is about due.
Iraq: Not a must and potentially a longshot. But a visit to NZ troops stationed in Iraq would not necessarily be surprising. When Key visited, it was a high-security visit shrouded in secrecy. Key was fulfilling a promise he made that he would not put troops anywhere he was not prepared to go himself. The mission to Iraq comes up for review and potential extension or expiry in November. She has not adopted her predecessor Andrew Little’s campaign promise to withdraw troops, and may deem it necessary to go as part of her review. International forums Apec: In Papua New Guinea’s capital of Port Moresby, around November. The Asia Pacific Economic Co-operation summit is a regular on the prime ministerial diary.
Asean: The Association of South East Asian Nations summit typically follows on directly after Apec and prime ministers attend both. This year it will be held in Singapore.
Pacific Islands Forum: An important one for New Zealand prime ministers to attend, as a leader in the Pacific. This year’s location could be controversial as the tiny island of Nauru prepares to play host. It is the home of one of Australia’s controversial detention centres for asylum seekers, which is set to close, but whose inhabitants have been the subject of a contentious invitation to rehome them in New Zealand.
United Nations: The UN General Assembly is a yearly event in New York, in September. Leaders descend on Manhattan and it is also a prime opportunity for major international meetings to occur on the fringes, however the prime minister doesn’t typically go every year. The wildcards World Economic Forum: This is held in Davos, Switzerland, every year and Trade Minister David Parker is going. The US Government has just announced Trump will be there. But it is not a common one for the leaders to visit every year, and it is unlikely Ardern will attend with the meeting just two weeks away.
Antarctica: Always a possibility. As a bonus wildcard, Ardern has invited Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to visit New Zealand. A joint trip down to the ice could ‘‘knock two bastards off’’, as they say in Kiwi ice-exploration vernacular.
A photo call at the Apec Summit in Danang, Vietnam, in November 2017. Front, from left: South Korea President Moon Jae In, Russia President Vladimir Putin, Malaysia Prime Minister Najib Razak, Mexico President Enrique Pena Nieto. Back, from left: Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, Taiwan representative James Soong.