Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern's Europe trip to include attending NATO summit, meeting with Boris Johnson, pushing for trade deal with EU

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is heading to Europe this week to attend a NATO leaders' summit, meet with UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, and push for a Free Trade Agreement with the European Union (EU).

On the way back from the northern hemisphere, Ardern will travel to Australia where she will be accompanied by a number of ministers and a large business delegation to promote trade and tourism.

Leaving on Sunday, Ardern will head to the NATO leaders' summit in Madrid, Spain. While NATO is an alliance of North American and European countries, New Zealand has been invited to attend along with Australia, Japan and the Republic of Korea. 

It's the first time NATO's "Asia-Pacific partners" have been invited to the summit. NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said last week that was a "strong demonstration of our close partnership with these like-minded countries in the Asia Pacific".

It was reported by Japanese media earlier on Monday that Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida is considering a summit with those countries' leaders on the sidelines of the NATO meeting. It would be a "show of solidarity against a more assertive China", Reuters reported.

Ardern said she plans to hold bilateral meetings at the NATO leaders' summit with a range of foreign leaders. 

"The NATO meeting represents an opportunity to engage with a large number of leaders on a wide range of issues over and above security and defence," she said.

Ardern made a point of saying that her Europe trip "has been long-planned" and "coincides with the NATO leaders' summit". 

NATO has previously expressed a desire to work closer with countries in the Indo-Pacific, especially in the face of China's growing influence in the region.

"We have seen that China is unwilling to condemn Russia's aggression. And Beijing has joined Moscow in questioning the right of nations to choose their own path," Stoltenberg said in April.

"This is a serious challenge to us all. And it makes it even more important that we stand together to protect our values." 

The Prime Minister will also head to Brussels, Belgium, where she and Trade Minister Damien O'Connor will meet with EU leaders with a focus on progressing the EU Free Trade Agreement (FTA). 

O'Connor said it follows "intensive remote work to date from New Zealand". 

"To underline our strong commitment to conclude negotiations that secure the best possible deal for New Zealand exporters, I will meet with the European Commission’s Executive Vice-President and Trade Commissioner, Valdis Dombrovskis, and the EU Commissioner for Agriculture, Janusz Wojciechowski," O'Connor said.

"The NZ-EU FTA agreement is also of broader importance at this time of geo-political uncertainty, and it is crucial that like-minded partners such as New Zealand and the EU continue to promote the international rules-based system."

A meeting with UK Prime Minister Johnson in London is also on the agenda. Ardern wants to further cement the close links between New Zealand and the UK after the two countries signed an FTA earlier this year

She will also "touch base" with Prince William, the Duke of Cambridge, and give a foreign policy speech at think-tank Chatham House.

Prior to COVID-19, the UK was New Zealand's fourth-largest international visitor market, comprising 6 percent of total arrivals. In 2019, 230,000 UK visitors came to New Zealand, contributing $539 million with an average holiday spend of $5596. Exports to the UK totalled $2 billion in 2021. In pre-COVID times it was $3.1 billion.

Two-way goods and services trade with the EU is around $17.5 billion. Exports prior to COVID-19 were about $6.1 billion in 2018. It was down to $4.6 billion in 2021. The EU is New Zealand's fourth-largest trading partner.

On July 2, following a five-day Europe programme, Ardern will travel to Australia. She'll be there between July 4 and 8 and visit both Melbourne and Sydney.

"The forum has been delayed for a couple of years due to COVID and marks another important step in our reconnecting plan," Ardern said.

"Australia is our largest market for tourists and second-largest for exports. It is the most significant market for our small and medium-sized businesses looking to grow their offerings. 

"And so in Melbourne and Sydney I will be helping to promote a number of trade and tourism opportunities.

"Our borders being open once again, and of course the removal of pre-departure testing from midnight tonight, creates real opportunities for our recovery, which will be a focus of the trip."

Ardern said her Europe trip was the "third leg of our reconnecting plan", which is intended to promote New Zealand's trade and tourism interests overseas. She's previously been in Asian markets and the United States. 

"We're letting the world know we are open for business, study, trade and travel once again.

"International links are vital for New Zealand's economic recovery from the global COVID pandemic. While virtual diplomacy has served us well, I am pleased to be able to undertake face-to-face meetings to profile New Zealand as a close, like-minded partner that is open for business, and actively reconnecting with our European partners."

O'Connor is also travelling to Canada before joining the Prime Minister again in Australia.

"In Ottawa, I will meet Minister of International Trade, Export Promotion, Small Business and Economic Development Mary Ng, to strengthen bilateral trade, especially through the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP). I will also visit Toronto to engage with Kiwi businesses, with a particular focus on the tech sector.

"Two-way trade with Canada was valued at just under $1.6 billion for the year ending September 2021, making them a significant trading partner, however our services exports took a hit throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

"This trip will help us reconnect with Canada by learning from and supporting New Zealand businesses on the ground in that market."