17 Apr 2018

Ardern hails trade 'vision', France's Macron to visit NZ

8:29 am on 17 April 2018

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern hopes any roadblocks to starting negotiations for a New Zealand-EU trade deal have been removed.

Ms Ardern had an hour-long bilateral meeting with France's President Emmanuel Macron after landing in Paris overnight (NZ time), the first time the two leaders have met.

They jointly announced support for moving ahead with a free trade deal between New Zealand and the the European Union (EU).

"I believe it's this new generation of trade agreements that we can take forward and the agreement between New Zealand and the EU can serve as a model in this respect," Mr Macron said after the meeting, through a translator.

New Zealand's Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern (L) and French President Emmanuel Macron arrive for a joint news conference at the Elysee Palace in Paris on April 16, 2018.    / AFP PHOTO / POOL / CHARLES PLATIAU

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and French President Emmanuel Macron meet at Elysee Palace in Paris. Photo: AFP

"We have a shared common vision of what should be the new trade agreements."

PARIS, FRANCE - APRIL 16: President of France, Emmanuel Macron (L) accompanies Prime Minister of New Zealand, Jacinda Ardern (R) as she leaves following their meeting at Elysee Palace in Paris, France on April 16, 2018. Mustafa Yalcin / Anadolu Agency

Photo: 2018 Anadolu Agency

EU member states are due to decide in May whether to greenlight negotiations, and France had until this point been hesitant about it, particularly around agriculture.

The pair issued a written joint declaration, noting that any agreement would "preserve the right of governments to regulate for legitimate public policy objectives such as the promotion of sustainable development".

It supported agreement to enhancing bilateral trade - "including through the future negotiation of a balanced, mutually beneficial, progressive and inclusive" NZ-EU trade deal.

It was not a guarantee, as another EU country could yet block the talks from getting under way, but Ms Ardern said she was heartened by Mr Macron's backing for the talks.

"Nothing is certain, there's always room for these things to move, but I certainly come away form this visit much more hopeful than, perhaps, when I went in."

Mr Macron also revealed Ms Ardern had invited him to visit New Zealand and confirmed he would do so. Mr Macron would be the first French president to ever visit New Zealand.

Ms Ardern has also had a brief quarter-hour meeting with her Canadian counterpart, Justin Trudeau, in Paris.

Before the meeting, the two leaders said they would discuss the new TPP trade agreement.

The meetings in Paris came roughly a month before the EU member states decide whether to greenlight negotiations for a trade deal with NZ.

Talks were expected to begin late last year, but the EU has yet to give the go-ahead. Some countries - including France - have had concerns about agriculture, namely that New Zealand could undercut French farmers if tariffs were removed.

Ahead of the trip, Ms Ardern said a free trade deal with the EU would be top of her agenda.

Leaders speak about strikes in Syria

New Zealand's Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern (L) and French President Emmanuel Macron (R) meet at the Elysee Palace in Paris on April 16, 2018.  / AFP PHOTO / POOL / CHARLES PLATIAU

Ms Ardern's New Zealand delegation meets with Mr Macron and officials. Photo: AFP

While trade may have been top of Ms Ardern's agenda, there were plenty of other issues jostling for attention: the big one being Syria.

France, the United States and United Kingdom have sent missiles into Syria after what is said to be a chemical weapons attack.

New Zealand has said it accepted that, but would not say it supported it. Ms Ardern said she brought up the matter in the meeting.

"I raised it because I was interested in his perspective around our ability to return to that multilateral approach - an aspiration he obviously shares - and just the long-term stability in the region.

"But as I say it was an issue I raised because I was interested in his perspective."

The opposition National Party has been critical of the government's stance to "accept" the air strikes against Syria, rather than "support" them as Australia, Canada and Germany did.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern at Elysee Palace with French president Emmanuel Macron

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern at Elysee Palace with French president Emmanuel Macron Photo: Craig McCulloch

However, when pressed by reporters, she pushed back.

"We accept that it wasn't the most favourable option but there were very few other options available," she said.

"And look, yes, the last government when these air strikes were used at that point expressed an understanding of why it had occurred.

"In this case, we accept that there were very few options available.

Ms Ardern is now en route to Berlin where she's due to meet the German chancellor Angela Merkel - trade is sure to again be on the agenda.

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