Jacinda Ardern, Boris Johnson chat trade agreements, climate change, online extremism

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and new United Kingdom leader Boris Johnson have spoken about free trade, climate change, and tackling terrorists' use of the internet.

The two leaders spoke over the phone on Monday, with Ardern congratulating Johnson on his recent election to Conservative Party leader and subsequently becoming the UK's Prime Minister.

In an email, a spokesperson for Downing St said the pair "discussed their shared commitment to an ambitious free trade agreement between the UK and New Zealand at the earliest opportunity".

"Prime Minister Johnson and Prime Minister Ardern also discussed other issues of shared importance, including climate change and maintaining momentum in tackling terrorist use of the internet"

"Prime Minister Johnson also updated Prime Minister Ardern on development in the UK's exit from the European Union. He confirmed that we want to leave the EU with a deal but we are committed to leaving on October 31 whatever the circumstances."

Jacinda Ardern, Boris Johnson chat trade agreements, climate change, online extremism
Photo credit: Getty / Newshub.

Those comments were echoed by Ardern who called the phone call "very productive".

"Our discussion focused on securing a free trade deal between our countries and Prime Minister Johnson said New Zealand was a high priority for negotiations following Brexit, which is very good for our exporters and economy."

Establishing a free trade agreement is extremely important to New Zealand's relationship with the United Kingdom. 

The UK is New Zealand's fifth-largest food and beverage export market, worth $1.6b in 2017. However, that relationship is threatened by the UK's exit from the European Union. 

If Johnson manages to pass a Brexit Withdrawl Agreement through the British Parliament, a transition period will be implemented, allowing time for the UK and New Zealand to form a new trade agreement. 

However, that may not happen, with the European Union not budging from its position that it won't renegotiate the deal that former UK Prime Minister Theresa May failed to get through the Parliament on multiple occasions. 

If a deal isn't passed, it's likely a no-deal Brexit will occur, meaning Britain will leave the European Union with no period of transition.

"A no-deal Brexit would likely increase the costs and procurement times of New Zealand exports, reducing demand for these products," said IBISWorld senior industry analyst Liam Harrison in April.

"In the event of a no-deal Brexit, the UK reverts to the World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules regarding trade, which would force the UK to place tariffs and quotas on certain products."

According to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, New Zealand does have several agreements and continuity arrangements in place to ensure continuity in some trading conditions between New Zealand and the UK, especially in the case of a no-deal exit.

But New Zealand Trade Enterprise has also released information on how businesses can prepare themselves for when Brexit arrives.

On the issue of terrorists using the internet to spread their messages, New Zealand and the UK share a commitment to eliminating extremist content online with the Christchurch call.

Ardern said in a statement that that pledge was brought up on the call.

"We also discussed next steps in the Christchurch Call and ending terrorist content online, climate change and other issues of shared interest, as well as getting an update on UK's progress on Brexit. 

A follow-up conversation on the pledge will likely occur in September alongside the UN General Assembly.

Following Johnson's election in July, Ardern had a "positive text exchange" with him.

"Mr Johnson is familiar with New Zealand in his former role as Foreign Secretary and has an excellent relationship with our Foreign Minister that I am sure will be mutually beneficial for our countries."