ZB

PM's White House talks get small win on trade, China, Pacific

Author
Claire Trevett, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Wed, 1 Jun 2022, 10:55am

PM's White House talks get small win on trade, China, Pacific

Author
Claire Trevett, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Wed, 1 Jun 2022, 10:55am

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern's meeting with US President Joe Biden went on twice as long as expected, and included a small win in Ardern's push for improvements in the trade relationship with the US.

That meeting went for almost 90 minutes instead of the expected 45 minutes – and included a high-ranking delegation from the United States. It ended with a quick look at the White House Rose Garden before Biden went on to meet with Korean K-Pop band BTS.

Ardern emerged to say she was "greatly heartened" by the meeting. "It was warm, friendly, shared values and shared challenges. I am greatly heartened by the nature of the conversation we had today."

The Pacific and China's moves in the Pacific were a significant part of the talks which Ardern said had ranged from regional and global security, to trade and climate change.

US President Joe Biden meets with New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern in the Oval Office of the White House. Photo / AP

US President Joe Biden meets with New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern in the Oval Office of the White House. Photo / AP

"Personally, it was a great pleasure to meet the President face to face despite the challenges Covid has presented on this trip. The determination from both sides to meet despite Covid's curveballs reflects the strength of our relationship."

On trade, Ardern said New Zealand was happy to join Biden's Indo Pacific Economic Strategy "but we do want it to be meaningful" and had pushed for it to at least include the removal of non-tariff barriers.

There was an encouraging move on that - the leaders announced that the two countries would re-start annual Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) discussions.
Those are talks around areas of more trade cooperation – and while unlikely to budge tariffs, could help at least remove non-trade barriers, such as the regulations preventing Fonterra exporting infant milk formula, despite the US shortage.

Ardern said afterwards that did not mean she had given up on the US joining the CPTPP – and had urged Biden to reconsider that. "You will see us continue to advocate that at every stage. It continues to be a significant focus for New Zealand.

"The CPTPP is the best way the United States can support the economic resilience of our region, so on that basis I encouraged the President to look at the CPTPP as more than a trade agreement."

Ardern said the Pacific had been high on the agenda – from climate change to peace and stability in the region – and China had been discussed. "Just reflecting on the environment we are in. Our engagement in our region has to be on our terms and not in response to anyone else."

The meeting took place to a backdrop of increased moves by China to try to secure agreements on trade and security with Pacific nations, while the US was also boosting its presence, including through the Indo Pacific Economic Framework.

The joint statement afterward said that "President Biden resolved to raise US ambition in partnering with the Pacific Islands still higher and to match that ambition with resourcing".

It was critical of moves such as China's agreement with the Solomon Islands and attempts to secure agreements with other Pacific countries.

"In particular, the United States and New Zealand share a concern that the establishment of a persistent military presence in the Pacific by a state that does not share our values or security interests would fundamentally alter the strategic balance of the region and pose national-security concerns to both our countries."

The statement also criticised China for human rights issues in Xinjiang, and anti-democratic moves in Hong Kong and China's actions in the South China Sea.

They also discussed Ukraine and both leaders condemned Vladimir Putin's invasion of Ukraine and discussed the support provided and what more could be done.

Gun reforms were also discussed - Biden had said ahead of the meeting that he had attended to the aftermaths of more shootings than any other President in history.

Ardern said New Zealand was happy to share what it had done – including the ban on weapons such as military style semi-automatic guns, something Biden is also talking about.

Biden was also interested in working on the Christchurch Call, praising Ardern's leadership as "galvanising action on climate change; the global effort to curb violence, extremism, and online, like happened in Christchurch".

In an earlier meeting with Vice President Kamala Harris, the Prime Minister and the Vice President welcomed the finalisation of negotiations of a Space Framework Agreement between the US and New Zealand.

Ardern said that would take the already-exciting science, technology and education partnership with Nasa to a new level.

Ardern begins her journey back to New Zealand today.