Prime Minister Ardern’s pragmatic diplomacy in Tokyo . . .
New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern visited Japan and Singapore last week – her first trip abroad since February 2020, signifying the importance of these two countries for New Zealand’s vision for rebuilding its economy and global connections. Ardern and Japan’s Prime Minister Kishida Fumio jointly criticized Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, agreed to begin negotiating an intelligence-sharing agreement and to work together on Pacific development and security, and reaffirmed the importance of the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership. Some analysts speculate the intelligence-sharing agreement may open the door to Japan joining the ‘Five Eyes’ intelligence-sharing agreement among the U.S., Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the U.K.
Focus on climate change, economy with Singapore . . .
In Singapore, PM Ardern met with Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong. The two announced several bilateral initiatives, the centrepiece of which was the addition of ‘climate change and the green economy’ as a fifth pillar of the New Zealand-Singapore Enhanced Partnership. The two leaders also agreed to grow opportunities for bilateral economic co-operation, including by creating a joint supply chain resiliency working group in which government officials work closely with private sector leaders on improving such things as food and energy security. Singapore, which imported nearly US$1 billion worth of goods from New Zealand in 2020, is New Zealand’s eighth-largest export market, while New Zealand is an important source of food and agricultural products for Singapore.
Reshaping trade, security, climate initiatives in the Asia Pacific . . .
Ardern’s visits are part of a global diplomatic surge in which many countries are seeking to catalyze economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic amid the economic headwinds caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, while also responding to China’s growing influence in the Asia Pacific and beyond. While neither the New Zealand-Japan joint statement nor the New Zealand-Singapore joint statement mentioned China by name, the two documents addressed shared values, particularly on open and free trade, and discussed matters of defence and security, both of which were likely veiled references to Beijing. For New Zealand, this may signal it is re-thinking its reluctance to criticize China, its largest export market, and moving toward a foreign policy that is more firmly aligned with the U.S. and other Western allies in opposition to China’s growing global influence.