Jacinda Ardern careful to avoid blaming Donald Trump for 'challenging the rules'

Jacinda Ardern has avoided singling out the US as being to blame for a breakdown in the international rules-based order.

The Prime Minister, in New York for the UN General Assembly, took questions from New Zealand media after delivering her first speech of the week at the UNICEF 9th Annual Social Good Summit.

Asked what risks US President's Donald Trump's aggressive America-first approach poses on issues like trade and diplomacy, Ms Ardern said he wasn't the only one challenging international norms.

"Look, there is not just one nation who's challenging the rules-based system. We've seen at a number of levels - whether it's trade, or whether or not it's the use of the veto power, there are challenges to a multilateral approach right now.

"We stand firmly in favour of using institutions like the UN, like the [World Trade Organization] - they're incredibly important to us."

New Zealand has long campaigned for the removal of the UN Security Council veto, which allows the permanent five members - the US, Russia, UK, France and China - to block resolutions that aren't in their interests.

"That's stood in the way of taking a multilateral approach in a number of significant issues," said Ms Ardern.

"We need to make sure the UN remains relevant, and that means being able to speak with one voice. The veto power has got in the way of that. We can't just rely on reform in that area though, because there are obvious blockages to that."

Ms Ardern was asked about Mr Trump's policies a number of times, but each time said it wasn't just him.

"I wouldn't rule out or in any particular country. There are a number of areas where we've seen multilateral institutions challenged."

Donald Trump.
Donald Trump. Photo credit: Reuters

If she gets some facetime with the former reality TV star, Ms Ardern said she'd focus on the trade relationship between our two countries - but they both have busy schedules, so it was unlikely a one-on-one meeting would take place.

Ms Ardern said she would not be attending a US-sponsored event on the sidelines of the General Assembly, the Global Call to Action on the World Drug Problem, and nor would New Zealand be signing up to its call for tougher action on illicit substances.

"It's not our intention to, and there are a number of other countries who haven't either... We're taking a health approach. We want to do what works, so we're using a strong evidence-based approach."

Earlier in the day Ms Ardern met with UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres. She said the focus of their meeting was Pacific issues. She did not bring up former Prime Minister Helen Clark's failed bid to be Secretary-General.