New Zealand’s Ardern Will Pursue Closer Trade Ties With U.S.
New Zealand wants to deepen its trade relationship with the U.S. as well as other key partners and capitalize on its Covid-free status as the world begins to re-open, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said.
“We are seen as Covid-free, safe and stable, astute crisis managers and enjoying a strong recovery,” Ardern said in a pre-budget speech Thursday in Auckland. “This is compelling to business and investors who’ve been badly impacted by Covid overseas, but also a great brand proposition for our exporters.”
New Zealand has been a star performer during the pandemic, eliminating Covid-19 from the community and stamping out minor outbreaks when the virus has managed to slip through the border. In addition to considering travel corridors with individual countries where it is safe to do so, Ardern said expanding trading relationships would be a key focus.
She will lead a trade and promotional delegation to Australia in early July, and Trade Minister Damien O’Connor will travel to Europe to progress negotiations for free-trade agreements with the U.K. and EU, she said.
“When our key trading partners over and above Australia look to re-open their borders and we have greater movement between countries, I will look to lead delegations into Europe, the United States, China and the wider Asia-Pacific,” Ardern said.
“With a change of administration there, and a deepening relationship with President Joe Biden across a range of issues, I intend to actively pursue an enhanced trade relationship with the U.S. over the coming term,” she said.
New Zealand established a quarantine-free travel corridor with neighboring Australia last month and another with the Cook Islands will begin next week. Ardern said Niue is the natural next addition.
“Beyond that we are relatively open-minded, and I do anticipate there will be other countries we can explore opportunities with,” she said, while noting that the bar would be high.
“For the time being, our borders remain our barricade against Covid-19,” she said. “But there are ways we can retain our elimination strategy whilst starting to rebuild contact with the world.”
High levels of vaccine uptake would be critical to further re-opening, and the government aimed to have everyone who can be vaccinated by the end of the year.
However, Ardern said vaccines were not fail-safe and their efficacy could be compromised by virus variants.
“Our re-opening plan will need the flexibility to continue highlighting and responding rapidly to countries where variants emerge that might pose a risk to the immunity we’ve built up in New Zealand, or are working to build up,” she said.
“That’s why, as work continues internationally on vaccine passports, New Zealand will remain actively involved in those discussions, while also considering other tools for managing and monitoring risk at the border.”
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