Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern's Europe trade negotiations trip deferred to 2022

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern's planned Europe trip to support free trade negotiations has been deferred to 2022, a spokesperson has confirmed. 

"As the Prime Minister has previously said a trip to support free trade negotiations was under consideration for the later part of this year," Ardern's spokesperson said on Friday.

"For a range of reasons, including the best timing of negotiations, this has been deferred to 2022."

Ardern was set to travel to Europe to help progress negotiations for a free trade agreement (FTA) between New Zealand and the European Union. 

Last month during questioning from ACT leader David Seymour in Parliament, Ardern denied changes to the length of time arrivals are required to stay in managed isolation and quarantine (MIQ) was to coincide with her Europe trip. 

"The decisions that we make on MIQ are made for the safety of New Zealand and for the context of all New Zealanders, not for any one individual," Ardern said.

She later added: "It is fair to say that for a number of months, of course as we negotiate the EU/FTA we are reaching a critical juncture and the question has been raised as to whether or not I will be able to support the conclusion of those talks.

"As you can imagine, for me, so much of what I do in the next few weeks is entirely dependent on what's happening here in New Zealand."

Seymour didn't buy it. 

"Families have been cruelly separated for up to two years, children have missed the funerals of their parents and fathers have missed the births of their babies thanks to the MIQ Hunger Games," he said at the time. 

"Now it appears MIQ rules are about to be conveniently changed to be shorter or allow for home isolation, just as the Prime Minister is seeking to go overseas.

"The Prime Minister could have denied that she has plans to go to Europe, instead she insisted that MIQ rules are not being changed for any one person.

"As Shakespeare would say, that's protesting too much, methinks.'"

Ardern plans to visit Auckland next week, now that House Speaker Trevor Mallard has removed the rule for MPs returning to Wellington to self-isolate for five days before going back to Parliament. 

"With the Speaker removing the rule that was a barrier to me heading to Auckland, I'm now making plans to get there early next week," Ardern said earlier this week. 

Trade Minister Damien O'Connor was in Europe last month to help secure an FTA with the UK and the European Union. Ardern announced an FTA with post-Brexit Britain last month, meaning export tax on nearly all New Zealand products to the UK will be wiped. 

The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) will come into force next year, meaning New Zealand will have free trade relationships with 15 economies in the Indo-Pacific region, home to almost a third of the world's population.

An FTA with the EU has not yet been finalised. Negotiations were formally launched in June 2018 and the first round of talks took place in July 2018 in Brussels.

Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) data shows New Zealand exports to the EU - excluding the UK - in 2019 totalled $9 billion, while imports from the EU totalled $14.8 billion.

The EU includes Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain and Sweden.