- Both sides keen to meet but Covid complicates White House visit
- Trip is part of a trade and tech push around key US markets
- US is New Zealand's third-biggest trading partner
- PM to also deliver the 371st Harvard commencement speech
Prime Minister Jacinda Arden could be travelling to the White House to meet US President Joe Biden as part of a trade trip to promote New Zealand .
The Government announced the visit on Monday morning, with Ardern expected to depart on Monday afternoon.
The trip has been framed as part of the Government’s "reconnecting strategy", as Ardern goes out on the global stage to show New Zealand is open again for business.
She plans to visit New York, Washington DC, Boston, San Francisco and Seattle.
"New Zealand's relationship with the United States is one of our most enduring and significant. This mission will feature political and security engagement, as well as tourism and trade promotion," Ardern said.
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Because of US Covid travel rules, the prime minister, who was originally meant to depart on Saturday, had to delay her flight until 10 days after testing positive.
The result has also complicated a potential White House visit, which both nations are keen on.
A delegation, including Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade officials as well as a media contingent, departed New Zealand on Saturday. Business delegates will join the party on Monday (NZT).
The other major highlight of the trip – and the event around which the trip was organised – will be Ardern delivering the Harvard University commencement speech .
The speech has previously been delivered by Meta founder Mark Zuckerberg, former President John F Kennedy, former Secretary of State Madeline Albright, talk show host Oprah Winfrey and British wartime prime minister Winston Churchill.
Ardern would not be drawn on what she would talk about, saying she had been drafting the speech for the past three weeks, and that "I might just finish it first".
"Politically, I can't imagine a more important time for political engagement. Obviously, you'll see the United States with engagement in the last few days with new Nato applicants .
"The complete focus – not just on what the war in Ukraine means for the United States, but for the world – (and) also a focus on our region," she said in a pre-trip interview with media via Zoom.
The US is New Zealand's third-largest trading partner, with two-way trade valued at $18.5 billion annually. It is also New Zealand's biggest trading partner in services.
Ardern is scheduled to meet senior tech executives at Microsoft, Twitter and Amazon, as well as global hedge fund Blackrock.
The companies are giant players. Amazon's revenue for 2021 was twice the size of New Zealand's entire economy for that year.
Ardern will also be making a push for tourism.
"The US was our third-largest tourist market for arrivals pre-Covid, with travellers planning their visits months before coming in the New Zealand summer," she said. "So now is the right time to be visible in the US market [and] letting Americans know we are open for business and travel."
While stateside, the prime minister is also expected to meet the Governor of California, Gavin Newsom, and the UN Secretary-General Angelo Guterres.
The visit comes at a time when the government is seeking to build on its relationship with the US.
New Zealand has in recent years hugged closer to traditional Western partners, both during the Russian war in Ukraine and more generally through adopting the language of the " free and open Indo-Pacific " in the region.
"The United States relationship is so fundamental to us in political and security terms. In a world of increasing challenges, we need to work closely with friends who share our values, so this is an important trip to be making right now," Ardern said.
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