PM Jacinda Ardern's Singapore, Japan trip 'huge' for showing New Zealand open for business, securing trade deals - economist Brad Olsen

A leading economist says the Prime Minister's trip to Japan and Singapore is "absolutely huge" for showing New Zealand is open for business and securing trade deals. 

Jacinda Ardern touched down in Singapore on Monday night on her first overseas trip since the COVID-19 pandemic began. She will also visit Japan. 

Ardern departed from Auckland's Whenuapai Airbase on Monday morning with her fiancé Clarke Gayford, Trade Minister Damien O'Connor, ministry officials, a 12-strong business delegation and members of the media.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is greeted by Singapore’s Minister Indranee Rajah.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is greeted by Singapore’s Minister Indranee Rajah. Photo credit: Newshub

Infometrics principal economist Brad Olsen told AM on Wednesday Ardern's trip abroad is "absolutely huge" for showing New Zealand is open for business.

"One thing we know quite clearly, particularly in Asia, is those personal relationships, those connections are very, very critical to getting things moving," he told AM.

"Trade sounds very transactional but getting things across the line does require a lot more of those and that's what we are seeing at the moment."

Olsen said the timing of Ardern's trip is important as other countries around the globe have also started ramping up their trade business. 

"The fact we are getting out there when everyone else is, is important, so we are kept very firmly at the forefront of those trading ideas and trading options as we start to re-open to the world," Olsen told AM. 

Infometrics Principal Economist Brad Olsen.
Infometrics Principal Economist Brad Olsen. Photo credit: AM

Olsen believes it will take time for tourism to "ramp up" once New Zealand's border re-opens to the entire globe. 

Currently, only Australian citizens are able to come into New Zealand quarantine-free, but from May 1, visa waiver tourists will also be allowed into the country. 

"Certainly, our expectations both around tourism and migration back here to New Zealand isn't that we just click our fingers and we get back towards normal," Olsen said. 

"But the fact that we are getting out there and getting New Zealand back on the forefront of these countries' minds is important because there is a long runway for a lot of this work."

Olsen believes Ardern's trip is important for changing people's perception around the globe that New Zealand is a "hermit kingdom" that has been closed for so long. 

"It just lifts that profile of New Zealand after a period where we have been talked about here and internationally about our hermit kingdom," he said. 

"Now we are very much trying to open back up and putting someone like the Prime Minister who has that very strong international star power out there is important for lifting our brand and awareness of New Zealand."

Ardern's trip hasn't been smooth sailing since she left on Monday, with three members of her team testing positive for COVID-19. 

All three were weak positives and most likely caused by historical infections. 

Watch the full interview abovew.