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New Zealand PM visits Brussels

25 January 2019

25 January 2019

New Zealand Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, visited the EU and NATO on 25 January. Fresh from a starring role in Davos, she said that her visit was aimed at boosting the EU-NZ FTA negotiations which started six months ago. She said both sides were committed to reaching a political agreement by the end of the year but there was no fixed timetable. She expected solutions to tricky issues such as agriculture could be found as there was a will to do so on each side. The Agriculture Commissioner, Phil Hogan, is shortly to visit New Zealand.

In meetings with Jean-Claude Juncker and Donald Tusk, Ardern said that the EU and NZ, although far apart, shared many common values and interests, from climate change to the rules based international order.

Donald Tusk agreed stating that relations between the EU and NZ were excellent, adding that ‘we both firmly believe in openness, cooperation, the rules-based international order and free trade.’

Asked about Brexit, Ardern said NZ was ready to negotiate a FTA but ‘only when they are in a position to do so.’

The NZ prime minister also held talks with Jens Stoltenberg, the NATO secretary general, exchanging views on security issues.

EU officials said that Ardern’s visit had been well received. Her progressive cooperative approach was a positive antidote to some elderly, male, populist leaders in Europe and elsewhere said one.

At home, Ardern is the first prime minister to become a mother in office, and has carved out a new agenda focusing on kindness, fighting child poverty and homelessness. In foreign policy, she has focused on climate change and promoting a rules based international order.

Her visit will have helped raise NZ’s existing good profile in Brussels.