Jacinda Ardern in New York: What she discussed with Donald Trump

Author
Derek Cheng - NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Tue, 24 Sep 2019, 10:36AM

Jacinda Ardern in New York: What she discussed with Donald Trump

Author
Derek Cheng - NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Tue, 24 Sep 2019, 10:36AM

Free trade, New Zealand's ban on semi-automatic guns and golfing legend Sir Bob Charles were subjects traversed in a 25-minute meeting between Jacinda Ardern and Donald Trump in New York today.

The meeting has been highly anticipated, not only because the New Zealand Prime Minister has been painted as an anti-Trump figure, but also because the Herald understands that it was Trump who sought the meeting and was particularly interested in meeting Ardern in person.

Ardern emerged from the meeting - for which media were banned - at the InterContinental Hotel with warm smiles and high praise for Trump.

Free trade, tourism and Sir Bob Charles were discussed at the meeting. Photo / Supplied
Free trade, tourism and Sir Bob Charles were discussed at the meeting. Photo / Supplied

"President Trump views New Zealand very warmly, views the relationship very warmly and holds New Zealand in very high regard," she told reporters in New York.

"He was interested in everything from tourism to what occurred in Christchurch. We even had a conversation around our gun buyback and the process we had gone through there."

Trump is understood to have asked Ardern, unprompted, about the gun law reform that she pushed through in the aftermath of March 15, which banned most military-style semi-automatic firearms and led to a buyback process that so far has collected about 20,000 firearms and paid out $36.7 million.

Trump has met with March 15 survivor Farid Ahmed at the White House and has talked about possible gun law reform in the US, which he has previously opposed.

Ardern said Trump showed an interest in what New Zealand had done.

"We were able to move quickly and with consensus, and that obviously stood out to the world... he listened with interest.

Jacinda Ardern spoke warmly of Donald Trump. Photo / Supplied
Jacinda Ardern spoke warmly of Donald Trump. Photo / Supplied

"I certainly wouldn't want to predetermine that that means anything in particular for the US other than an interest in what we did."

A free trade deal was also discussed, and the Herald understands that senior trade officials are scheduled to visit Washington in next month for preliminary talks about a possible agreement.

Ardern said that Trump was enthusiastic about a free trade agreement with New Zealand.

"We already have a trade surplus [with the US]. The idea of continuing a conversation about New Zealand's trade relationship with the US was greeted warmly, and I expect there will be some ongoing conversations.

"These things do take time. The fact that there was that enthusiasm there to continue those conversations I think is really important."

She would not say if Trump had asked for New Zealand's support around pressuring Iran, which the US has accused of being responsible for a drone attack on Saudi Arabia.

"We discussed a number of national security issues but I won't get into detail on that," Ardern said.

She said they talked about the UN Climate Summit, which Trump attended briefly today and where Ardern delivered a keynote address, and about March 15 - but she did not ask him why the US has not signed up for the Christchurch Call.

"I don't think it has fundamentally changed the outcomes of what we've been able to deliver through the Christchurch Call."

It was more important to see tech companies wanting to change policies and practices, she said.

They also talked about the "big personalities" of New Zealand.

Asked who Trump had talked about, Ardern said: "Bob Charles."

She said she did not have a conversation about whether Trump could visit New Zealand at the end of the year, given speculation about a possible visit to Australia at that time.

"We've got a few elections coming up soon... Apec would be an opportunity for the President to visit New Zealand in 2021."