16 Apr 2018

PM's Europe trip: What's on the agenda?

8:41 pm on 16 April 2018

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has arrived in Paris and will kick off her week-long trip to Europe with a formal meeting with French President Emmanuel Macron.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern 21 March 2018

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern Photo: VNP / Phil Smith

The two leaders will meet for the first time overnight on Monday (NZT) at Elysee Palace.

Ahead of the trip, Ms Ardern said a free trade deal with the European Union (EU) would be top of her agenda, but the recent military action in Syria may dominate discussions.

France's President Emmanuel Macron.

France's President Emmanuel Macron. Photo: AFP or licensors

Over the weekend, she effectively endorsed the United States, the United Kingdom and France in bombing multiple government targets in Syria.

"We accept why the US and others have taken the military action that they have," she said.

"Our view is though now is the time to return to the table - to the UN to resolve these issues."

Russia has since tried and failed to get the UN Security Council to condemn the strikes.

The meeting comes roughly a month before the EU member states decide whether to greenlight negotiations for a trade deal with New Zealand.

Talks were expected to begin late last year, but the EU has yet to give the go-ahead. Some countries - including France - are said to have concerns about agriculture.

"What has been suggested is that the barriers to New Zealand having that negotiating mandate are issues around sustainability and agriculture," Ms Ardern said.

"Our view is that's what a negotiation is for. Those are things we can resolve once we're sitting around the table, so our goal is to get those started."

She'll be seeking "some real leadership" to demonstrate that multilateral trade agreements and fair rules are important for both NZ and the EU, she said.

"We're one of just a handful of WTO [World Trade Organisation] members who do not have either the beginning of a negotiation or an agreement."

Ms Ardern will also discuss climate change with Mr Macron and later in the day, deliver a keynote speech on the subject at the Paris Institute of Political Studies.

Following the speech, the prime minister will have a 15 minute bilateral meeting with her Canadian counterpart Justin Trudeau who is due to speak at the institute later in the day.

The pair last met at the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation (APEC) summit in Vietnam in November and will cross paths again at a town hall event in London a few days later.

After Paris, the Labour leader is then scheduled to travel to Berlin to meet German chancellor Angela Merkel, before flying on to London for the Commonwealth Heads of Government (CHOGM) meeting.

She'll also sit down with UK Prime Minister Theresa May and have a private meeting with Queen Elizabeth at Buckingham Palace.

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