Joe Biden wants to ‘reinvigorate’ US-New Zealand ties, says Ardern after phone call | Joe Biden

New Zealand prime minister Jacinda Ardern has said US president-elect Joe Biden wants to “reinvigorate” the two countries’ relationship, something that should prove fairly easy after Ardern’s previous encounters with Donald Trump.

The two leaders had a “positive and warm” phone call, Ardern said on Monday, and she had invited Biden to visit, saying: “He spoke of his fond memories of visiting New Zealand years ago. He was very pleased to be invited to come back here.”

She said she had sensed Biden’s desire to work constructively on trade and other matters of mutual interest such as climate change response. “We discussed Covid-19 and the president-elect spoke positively about New Zealand’s response to the pandemic,” the prime minister said.

“I offered to him and his team access to New Zealand health officials in order to share their experience on things we’ve learnt on our Covid-19 journey.” New Zealand’s response to the pandemic has been one of the most successful in the world in stark contrast to the situation in the US.

She told reporters she raised “the importance of organisations like the World Trade Organisation to a country like New Zealand … [and] our eagerness to support work to unblock some of the issues we’ve experienced”.

The call struck a completely different tone to her previous interactions with Trump, whose administration had called for a fundamental reset at the WTO and sabotaged its ability to settle disputes.

At their first face to face meeting, at the east Asia summit, Trump pointed to Ardern and, apparently in jest, said “this lady caused a lot of upset in her country” in reference to the 2017 election that led to her becoming prime minister, beating her right-leaning rival. Ardern later said she retorted, that “no one marched when I was elected”.

Asked at the time about her impressions of Trump, Ardern was diplomatic. “He is consistent,” she said. “He is the same person that you see behind the scenes as he is in the public or through the media.”

When the pandemic hit, Trump’s unfounded claims about the “big surge in New Zealand” of Covid cases – a cluster of 87 new cases emerged in August after 102 days without community infection – rankled many New Zealanders, including Ardern. She did not mention Trump but made her point with data. “To give you just one example, the United States has 16,563 cases per million people. We are 269 cases per million people,” Ardern said at the time.

Trump congratulated Ardern on her win in 2017 but was conspicuously absent from the list of world leaders who made contact after her recent election victory.


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