| 20 May 2024, Monday |

New Zealand PM Ardern welcomes signs of U.S. greater presence in Indo-Pacific

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern welcomed signals of increased US engagement in the Indo-Pacific area, noting in an interview that her country had “mature” ties with China that allow for disagreement.

Next week, Ardern will hold an online summit of Asia-Pacific leaders, including the United States, China, and Japan, to examine how the area may recover from the COVID-19 outbreak and following economic catastrophe.

In an interview that will appear on Sunday on the American network NBC, Ardern stated that the United States has a “very significant role” to play in the region’s strategic security, economy, and trade ties under President Joe Biden.

“We embrace that physical presence, being part of crucial discussions in our region,” she said on “Meet the Press.” “And we have seen, in recent decades, a greater… engagement.”

Ardern underlined her government’s position that New Zealand, which has significant trading connections with China and has long been cited by Beijing as a model for its dealings with Western countries, will follow a “integrity” policy with China.

“We still think that we have the maturity in our relationship to address issues that are important to us, whether they are human rights concerns, labor issues, or environmental issues,” Ardern added.

Ardern reiterated her government’s position that New Zealand – which has major trade ties to China and has long been touted by Beijing as a model of its relations with Western countries – will pursue a policy of “integrity” with China.

“We do still believe that we have the maturity in our relationship to raise issues that we’re concerned about, be it human rights issues, be it labour issues, be it environmental issues,” Ardern said.

“And it’s very important to us that we continue to be able to do that and do that regardless of those trading ties.”

Ties between New Zealand and its neighbor Australia have deteriorated significantly since 2018, when Canberra barred Huawei Technologies Co (HWT.UL) from its fledgling 5G broadband network. Last year, Australia called for an impartial study into the origins of the coronavirus epidemic, which was initially discovered in central China in 2019.

China replied by placing duties on Australian commodities such as wine and barley, as well as limiting imports of Australian meat, coal, and grapes, which the US referred to as “economic coercion.”

This has not affected China’s ties with New Zealand, however, as both nations upgraded a free trade agreement in January, although New Zealand united with Australia over China human rights issues.

  • Reuters