New Zealand’s Ardern to discuss Asia Pacific outreach with Biden | International Trade

Ardern’s visit to the White House comes after New Zealand’s leader urged the United States to return to a comprehensive regional trade deal.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern will meet U.S. President Joe Biden on Tuesday for talks on Washington’s efforts to strengthen its engagement in the Asia-Pacific region.

Speaking to media in Washington, D.C., Ardern said U.S. involvement in the region was her “top priority” in discussions with Biden at the White House.

“We’re going to encourage the U.S. to really continue and strengthen its engagement in our region, including economic engagement, which is very important to our region,” she said.

Ardern is also expected to meet with Vice President Kamala Harris, Secretary of State Anthony Blinken and U.S. Indo-Pacific Regional Coordinator Kurt Campbell.

“It’s not about declarables,” she said. “It’s not about new initiatives. It’s really about the relationship.”

Ardern’s visit comes as Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi continues his eight-nation visit to the Pacific island nations, which are being watched closely by the United States, Australia and New Zealand, concerned that Beijing is seeking to build a military footprint in the region.

On Monday, Yi Gang and his counterparts in 10 Pacific island nations failed to agree on a comprehensive security and trade deal that would fully expand China’s participation in the South Pacific.

Last week, Ardern urged the U.S. to engage in broader economic engagement in the Asia-Pacific region by: Return to the ‘gold standard’ Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP).

Former US President Donald Trump withdrew from the CPTPP’s predecessor, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), in 2017, citing the need to protect US jobs and wages.

Despite promising greater economic participation in the Asia-Pacific region, the Biden administration has not sought to join the CPTPP amid opposition from Congress and concerns that it could lead to U.S. jobs being moved overseas.

The United States also refused to join the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), the world’s largest trade bloc, which includes 14 other signatories including China and New Zealand, Australia, South Korea and Japan.

Regional Disappointment

Instead, Biden has pushed for the Indo-Pacific Economic Prosperity Framework (IPEF), an initiative that sets common standards in areas such as trade and clean energy, but does not ease barriers to trade.

While widely welcomed across the region, the IPEF’s lack of tariff cuts has disappointed many export-dependent countries seeking greater access to the U.S. market.

“Geopolitical tensions and rising inflation have posed urgent and significant challenges to the global post-pandemic recovery since the beginning of the year,” Zhang Haiping, a senior economics lecturer at the University of Auckland, told Al Jazeera.

“Large economies, including the U.S. and China, should play a leading role in providing more predictability to the Asia-Pacific region. Existing plurilateral institutions, such as APEC, RCEP and CPTPP, are expected to be effective platforms to achieve this .”

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