Ardern Asia-bound for first face-to-face trade talks in 2 years

Source: 1News

For some of Aotearoa’s biggest companies, Jacinda Ardern’s trip to Singapore and Japan is about sending a message we're open for business after being stuck inside fortress New Zealand.

Zespri is part of the group of businesses travelling with the prime minister.

Last month alone more than a million trays of Zespri yellow kiwifruit left for Japan.

“These markets are really important to Zespri, they actually represent $800 million worth of sales,” Zespri chief people officer Edith Sykes said.

The aim is to boost that number now face to face meetings are possible again, Zespri is part of the group of businesses travelling with the prime minister.

“There is absolutely joy and delight to be able to do this face to face we've been so long without it,” Sykes said.

Jacinda Ardern says Omicron put a stop to her trip to Australia last year and she’s batted away criticism she should have been travelling more.

“I was always willing however to take up the isolation period that would be required on return, but equally some of the markets that we wished to visit weren’t necessarily open to visitors or had border closers affecting them as well,” she said.

Diplomacy expert David Capie says face-to-face diplomacy will allow Ardern to build new relationships.

The Prime Minister is flying to Singapore via Cairns.

“Zoom diplomacy, virtual diplomacy is good but it’s not a way not a way to build new relationships so Japan has a new prime minister, prime minister Kashida so he and Prime Minister Ardern haven’t met in person,” the Director of the Centre for Strategic Studies said.

Those relationships matter because Singapore and Japan are our fourth and fifth biggest trading partners and there's a lot to catch up on, pandemic aside.

“Top of everybody’s agenda right now is the war on Ukraine and what that means for international peace and security, the consequences it has for supply chains for peace in Europe and more generally,” Capie said.

National says the prime minister needs to push for support to attract the US back to the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement after Donald Trump pulled out.

“I think there is greater opportunity and potential now than a year ago. you've got to remember the TPP is about a set of rules over Asia Pacific that people could rely upon,” National trade spokesperson Todd McClay said.

The former trade minister says we've got work to do after New Zealand initially included Singapore in changes to our property ownership rules.

“It took the Singapore government by surprise I understand they read about it in the newspaper they were deeply unhappy about that, actually the prime minister needs to get there and fix that relationship because it is an extremely important one for us,” McClay said.

Covid testing will be a fixture of the trip with the possibility the prime minister might have to isolate in Singapore for a week if she tests positive.