Jacinda Ardern, Donald Trump meeting: US President takes interest in gun buyback

US President Donald Trump is interested in New Zealand's gun buyback scheme, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said following their "excellent" meeting.

Ardern said they had a wide-ranging discussion, with the US President interested in New Zealand's tourism, the gun buyback and the Christchurch mosque attacks.

"I would describe it as an excellent meeting," she said.

"[He views] New Zealand very warmly, views the relationship very warmly, and holds New Zealanders in very high regard."

Ardern said the pair spoke for about 25 minutes, with New Zealand's process of removing military-style assault weapons following the March 15 attacks being a key topic of conversation.

"It was a conversation around our buyback and obviously the work that we have done to remove military-style automatics weapons and assault rifles. We had a conversation around what had happened in New Zealand and how it worked.

"It was really just sharing our experience which obviously is pretty unique."

"I sensed an interest."

But Ardern said she didn't want to "predetermine that means anything particular for the United States other than an interest in what we did". 

The trade relationship between New Zealand and the United States was also a key topic, with Aotearoa looking to secure a free trade agreement with the US.

"An excellent discussion on trade. I would say that discussion was met with enthusiasm by the President and I expect talks will be on-going," Ardern said.

On climate change - something that has been a major focus for United Nations member states this year but on which Trump's stance is murky - Ardern said they didn't have a long discussion.

"I mentioned briefly the climate summit and referenced that and our participation, but not a long discussion."

Jacinda Ardern, Donald Trump meeting: US President takes interest in gun buyback
Photo credit: Supplied.

Bilateral or pull-aside?

Earlier, the description of the meeting did raise eyebrows, with Ardern calling it a "bilateral meeting" while Trump's press schedule referred to it simply as a "pull-aside".

Trump met with several other world leaders on Tuesday (NZ Time), such as the presidents of Pakistan, Poland, Egypt, and Singapore. All of those meetings were referred to by the White House as a "bilateral meeting".

Newshub political reporter Jenna Lynch - who is in New York - told The AM Show that the description of the event as a pull-aside was telling.

"That is kind of diplomatic speak for treating us not as an equal to the likes of Pakistan, Korea, Egypt, Poland."

"What we refer to pull-asides as is catching up in a back alley of the UN as they are in passing. The White House has different terms for it, or at least that is what the Prime Minister's office here is saying, maybe to save face a little bit."

But acting Prime Minister Winston Peters said the description didn't matter as Ardern would be treated the same as the other leaders. 

"She has time to make a serious impression upon him on the things that concern us, the greater engagement of the United States in the Pacific, on issues to do with the rule of law, the free trade agreement we are aspiring to, the fair treatment of New Zealand's businesses," he told The AM Show.

"She can also thank him for the movement through Congress of the Kiwi Act and things like that which mean our businessmen over there don't need the constant visa reapplications every six months and they have got them for three years.

"We have made some serious progress and if she can come out of there with further stages planned ahead between our two administrations, that would be marvellous."

In a statement following the meeting, Peters called it a "diplomatic coup" on a "very good day" for New Zealanders.

"Securing a 25-minute long meeting with the US President during the UN Leaders Week is an achievement in its own right given the pressure on the President's schedule," Peters said.

"All the more remarkable was the level of attendance on the American side. The President was accompanied by Vice President Mike Pence, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and the newly appointed National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien."

United States Ambassador to New Zealand Scott Brown also told The AM Show that the meeting was being taken very seriously.

"These meetings, not everyone has a meeting, to say it is in a room with a couple of chairs is just a mischaracterisation," he said.

"I went back to DC to make sure everything was lined up for this meeting. It is a very important meeting. Both sides know exactly what they want to talk about."

Brown said Peters was pushing for a free trade agreement with the United States very strongly, and he hoped it would be eventually secured.

"It is a no-brainer."

The meeting will also mostly be closed to the press - unlike the other meetings - with only two official photographers present.

"There will be a couple of photos out of this meeting, and that's it," Lynch said.