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New Zealand PM meets Biden to discuss U.S. Indo-Pacific strategy -Breaking


© Reuters. FILEPHOTO: Jacinda Adern (New Zealand Prime Minister) speaks at the unveiling of the Kuwaha sculpture in Gardens by the Bay’s Cloud Forest, Singapore, April 19, 2022. REUTERS/Caroline Chia


Jeff Mason, Lucy Craymer

WASHINGTON/WELLINGTON (Reuters) -New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern met U.S. President Joe Biden on Tuesday at the White House, where their first face-to-face talks were expected to include Washington’s efforts to counter China in the Indo-Pacific region.

This meeting became more important because New Zealand raised concern about China’s presence within the region in recent weeks after receiving news that Beijing had signed security agreements with Solomon Islands.

Biden joined Ardern at the Oval Office and said Washington does not want to dictate to the region, but that it is willing to work with them. He said, “We have more to do in the Pacific Islands.”

China has been making an effort to grow its influence. China’s foreign minister is on a tour across the region and currently visiting Tonga.

Biden’s Indo-Pacific Economic Framework for Prosperity was joined by New Zealand during Biden’s last trip to Asia.

Ardern stated that the White House meeting “offers an important opportunity to increase economic resilience within our region,” when he spoke to journalists at its beginning.

New Zealand and other nations in the region feel that the accord is too limited. Biden has been asked to participate in trade pacts, which would allow the United States to unlock its consumer markets. Biden was reluctant to join trade pacts that could unlock U.S. consumer markets because of fears domestically that these deals might cost jobs.

Ardern, White House correspondent, referred to the trans-Pacific multi-country trade agreement that Washington pulled out of in 2017, but which New Zealand has remained with, and China wants to join.

Both leaders would also be expected to talk about their strategies for stopping Russia from invading Ukraine, as well as how gun control has been affected by several U.S. mass shootings that have left 21 people and educators dead, one of which occurred in Uvalde in Texas.

Ardern issued a ban against semiautomatic weapons and other gun controls following the Christchurch massacre of 2019, which saw 51 Muslims killed by a gunman. It is quite a contrast to the United States’ Congress and activist efforts to reduce gun violence. Ardern expressed condolences for the victims of recent gun attacks.

Ardern said she expected to meet with Vice President Kamala Harris, Secretary of State Antony Blinken and U.S. Indo-Pacific coordinator Kurt Campbell.

At a press conference before she headed to the White House, she stated that “it’s not about innovative initiatives.” “It’s about this relationship.”

Ardern was part of a trade delegation that promoted business between New Zealand and the United States.

The two countries are close friends but the meeting with Biden had been uncertain after Ardern tested positive for COVID-19 earlier this month, given strict White House pandemic protocols.

Trois members of Ardern’s delegation now have positive COVID tests.