Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has promised to lead trade delegations to Europe, the United States, Asia and Australia in 2022, as New Zealand reopens to the world.
Ardern announced the Government’s plan to end tight border restrictions that have been in place since early in the Covid-19 pandemic, beginning with New Zealanders in Australia being able to enter the country without managed isolation from February 27.
In a speech at a Business NZ event in Auckland on Thursday, Ardern said she would “lead trade delegations and trade-supporting visits into four key markets this year – Australia, Asia, the United States and Europe”.
“New Zealand is in demand. Our exports are at record highs, people want to live and work here, international students want to study here, our friends and whānau want to return,” she said.
* Irish school girl ‘delighted’ with letter from Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern
* Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern reflects on the year, plans for the summer
* NZ’s year in ‘virtual’ spotlight begins
Ardern has not travelled overseas since the Covid-19 pandemic reached New Zealand’s shores in early 2020, and only two Cabinet ministers have left the country: Trade Minister Damien O’Connor and Foreign Affairs Minister Nanaia Mahuta.
In May 2021, Ardern told a Business NZ audience she would be leading a delegation to Australia in July that year, and Europe, US, China and Asia beyond that.
However, an outbreak of the Delta variant in Australia, and then New Zealand, meant Ardern cancelled planned trips to both Australia and Europe.
Despite the limited travel, the Government did secure an in-principle free trade agreement with the UK in October.
But a prospective free trade deal with the European Union has yet to be finalised, and hope that a conclusion would soon be reached was quashed in late-2021, when reports emerged that suggested France had delayed the deal due to concerns about how its domestic agriculture sector would respond.
Pushing forward a NZ-EU free trade deal will be a major aim of any trip to Europe taken by Ardern.
The prime minister has also appeared interested in firming up New Zealand’s relationship with the Biden administration in the US.
In 2021, Ardern made a noticeable effort to put herself in front of well-connected audiences in the US. She spoke with the US Chamber of Commerce, was interviewed by a former Obama staffer in a high-profile CNN podcast, and she also spoke with the US Council on Foreign Relations.