The Soap Box:Jacinda Ardern's broken the mould

Barry Soper,
Publish Date
Thursday, 9 November 2017, 5:57AM
Ardern's also breaking the mould at Apec, joining just two other female leaders. (Photo \ NZ Herald)
Ardern's also breaking the mould at Apec, joining just two other female leaders. (Photo \ NZ Herald)

Jacinda Ardern's broken the mould in a number of ways, not the least at 37, she's the second youngest Prime Minister in the country's history and only by a matter of days. To say her propulsion from backbencher to Prime Minister was meteoric is an understatement.

She'll also break the mould when she lands in the Vietnamese coastal city of Da Nang for Apec, an annual gathering of leaders which was christened by yours truly a number of years ago as Aging Politicians Expecting Cocktails.

There are a couple of young 'uns who'll make up the crowd of 21 leaders, clinking their cocktail glasses this time though. The other youngster is 45 year old Justin Trudeau from Canada who didn't make the usual congratulatory telephone call to our new Prime Minister, he skyped her for a face to face and they had a long yarn, much of it about leading a country when most people their age are trying to move on from middle management.

Ardern's also breaking the mould at Apec, joining just two other female leaders, one from Chile and the other from Hong Kong, who make up what used to be the old boys' club.

The summit's a bit like speed dating, they walk hither and yon, pressing the flesh but actually do very little sitting around a table sorting out the problems of the world. The main events are the silly shirts photo and the leaders' retreat held at a resort which is followed by a full, frank and usually meaningless declaration, written weeks in advance of the discussion.

The fact that they're still talking about the so called Bogor agreement is a case in point. The agreement was signed more than 30 years ago in Indonesia by a bunch of leaders who've long since departed, with the exception of Brunei's Sultan of course. For those of us who were attacked at the time for suggesting that its goals were a pipedream, with commitments made by leaders who wouldn't be around to take the hit for failure, we've surely been vindicated.

The goals were wiping trade barriers for developed countries by 2010 and developing economies by 2020. The first came and went and the second's coming and is likely to go the same way.

Ardern's underlings have been lining up leaders for one on one meetings, mainly from the other 10 countries involved in the shaky Trans Pacific Partnership following the departure of the United States. For Ardern they'll all be first time encounters and some are expected to be frosty, given she wants to change the rules of engagement, cutting the rights of investors to sue Governments and banning foreign buyers of existing houses here.

Given that eight of this country's ten most important trading cobbers will be at the summit, it's important Ardern impresses.

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