US President-Elect Joe Biden wants to “reinvigorate” New Zealand’s relationship with the US and has praised Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s leadership during the Covid-19 pandemic.
He is also keen for New Zealand to share its knowledge and experiences with the US, when it comes to the fight against Covid-19 – something Biden said was his number one priority.
Biden spoke to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern this afternoon – it was the first conversation the pair has had since Biden was elected President.
Speaking to reporters, Ardern said the call was “very much looking to the future”.
“The President-elect said he would like to reinvigorate the relationship, noting that the breadth of areas where there is agreement, while recalling the long-standing nature of the relationship between our countries,” Ardern said of the call.
The pair also talked about climate change and trade – although she didn’t go into detail about a potential free trade deal between the two countries.
Ardern extended an invitation for Biden to visit New Zealand as part of the Anzus 70 anniversary next year.
“It seemed only natural, of course, that we extend equally that invitation to New Zealand as well.”
That invitation, Ardern said, was “very warmly received”.
Ardern struck a positive tone when speaking about the call, saying it “very positive” and “very warm”.
In a statement, Biden appeared to echo this sentiment.
“The President-Elect praised the Prime Minister’s extraordinary leadership after the 2019 Christchurch massacre, on Covid-19 and as a working mother and role model,” a Biden spokesman said.
According to the list of “readouts” of Biden’s calls with other leaders, Ardern was the 14th leader he spoke to – ahead of several of the G20 countries.
A post shared by Jacinda Ardern (@jacindaardern)
Covid-19, climate change and international security were common themes in each read-out.
But the statement on his call to Ardern had a personal touch that the others lacked.
Conversations between newly elected leaders are a tried and tested tradition – Ardern had one with Donald Trump when he was first elected in 2016.
National’s foreign affairs spokesman Gerry Brownlee said it is too early to say if the Biden/Ardern call means the relationship between the two countries will improve markedly.
But he noted that New Zealand and the US have always been strong allies.
“Biden will need to be in the Oval Office for at least 12 months before we know if there is going to be change,” Brownlee said.
Foreign Affairs expert Steven Jacobi said Biden making contact with Ardern so early on was “a positive development”.
“The opportunity to make contact at an early stage is to be welcomed”.
Joe Biden won the US election against Donald Trump earlier this month – but Trump has yet to concede.
Despite this, when the result was clear, Ardern – on behalf of New Zealand – sent a message of congratulations to Biden.
Ardern told reporters today that she and Biden did not talk about Trump not conceding the election.
Rather, the 20 minute conversation was “dominated by talking about the next steps in our relationship.”
Ardern said Biden talked very positively about what had happened in New Zealand, in regards to Covid-19.
“I offered to him, and his team, access to the New Zealand [Covid-19] team and health officials in order to share our experience in the things we’ve learned on our Covid-19 journey.”
This was an offer, according to Ardern, that Biden was keen to take up.
Biden has been to New Zealand before – in 2016 he visited in his role as Vice-President.
“He spoke of his fond memories of visiting New Zealand several years ago – you could tell from the conversation he sensed a real connection to New Zealand; he felt very welcomed here,” Ardern said.
She added that Biden was very pleased to receive the invitation to come back to New Zealand.
“We are both looking forward to an opportunity to meet face-to-face.”
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