Jacinda Ardern, Joe Biden meeting: How the day unfolded after COVID-19 curveballs attempted to derail it

It's been almost a 10-year wait, but a New Zealand Prime Minister finally got to meet a US President in the White House - and it was like we'd never been away.

President Joe Biden told Jacinda Ardern she played a crucial role on the global stage and the Prime Minister got to nudge him towards a more significant return to the Pacific.

Ardern made the most of her meeting with Biden, but it's been a bumpy road to the White House, thanks to her recent COVID-19 infection.

Upon welcoming the Prime Minister into the Oval Office, Biden remarked that it was good to see a "not-so-old but good friend".

"You understand that your leadership has taken on a critical role on this global stage. It really has. Galvanising action on climate change, the global effort to prevent violence, extremism, what's happening online like the Christchurch Call," Biden said.

The President also praised New Zealand's help against Russia, including Kiwi soldiers providing training with guns.

But China and the Pacific was the major issue.

"We are not coming to dictate or lay down the law. We have more work to do in those Pacific Islands as well," he said.

America’s answer to China's rise is the Quad, a new alliance with India, Japan, and Australia.

Beneath that is a new grouping including New Zealand called The Indo-Pacific Economic Framework. The problem? It doesn't yet have any trade benefits for us.

"We will use that opportunity but we are looking for that to be meaningful," Ardern said.

And the potential deal that is the CPTPP appears to be on the backburner.

"You'll continue to see us advocating at every stage," Ardern said.

The President has just returned from visiting the school shooting scene at Uvalde, Texas, and is clearly still shaken.

"There's an expression by an Irish poet that says, "Too long a suffering makes a stone of the heart".  Well, there's an awful lot of suffering," he said.

"I've been to more mass shooting aftermaths than, I think, any President in American history, unfortunately.  And it's just, so much of it is preventable and the devastation is amazing."

Jacinda Ardern and Joe Biden.
Jacinda Ardern and Joe Biden. Photo credit: Getty Images

Biden gave Presidential backing to Ardern's response to March 15, the Christchurch Call aimed at fighting extremist content online.

"Well, the work you're doing with tech companies is really important, and I want to work with you there as well," Biden said.

US Vice President Kamala Harris also wanted to work with New Zealand, particularly on space - and Rocket Lab was on the agenda.

"She's really seeking to continue to work together as the rules of engagement in space are designed and operationalised," Ardern said.

Afterwards, Ardern, as she strode out into the heat of a 35C Washington DC day, said she had only one regret - wearing a jacket.

The one-hour meeting ran over to more than 90 minutes.

"I think that is a demonstration of the warmth of the relationship, the common ground, a little bit of shared Irish heritage," she said, noting the discussion the pair had on sharing Irish heritage.

There was also the obligatory invite for Biden to come down to Aotearoa. 

"As you can imagine, I extended the invitation," she said.

After all the chaos and COVID-19 curveballs to get there - it's finally mission accomplished.