JACINDA Ardern would immediately strengthen relations with a Joe Biden administration following four uneasy years of Donald Trump, a leading expert has claimed.
The New Zealand Prime Minister has clashed with Mr Trump on numerous occasions – most recently over their differing pandemic responses.
Some Kiwis have now joked that the White House currently has more active cases of Covid-19 than the whole of New Zealand.
Despite increasing animosity between the two nations in recent years, Ardern’s Labour administration has continued to pursue cordial relations with the White House, according to Professor Robert Patman of the University of Otago.
Relations have been historically strong between the two nations; the State Department labels New Zealand a “strong partner and friend of the United States”, while New Zealand’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs affirms the two are “close strategic partners”.
As such, Professor Patman explained, Ardern has been forced to maintain relations with her polar opposite in the White House.
He told Redaction Politics: “Jacinda Ardern and Winston Peters have worked hard to maintain friendly relations with the Trump administration, but it is no secret that Ardern does not share the ‘America First’ worldview of the Trump administration and dislikes the administration’s hostility to multilateralism.
“Ardern’s NZ promoted the Christchurch Call – an attempt to curb online extremism – and strongly supports the UN, WTO and the Paris climate accord.
“At the same time, Ardern does not share the worldview of America’s superpower rival, China, and has attempted to maintain good relations with both superpowers without fully aligned with one or the other.
In her first meeting with Trump in 2017, the Labor leader joked with him that ‘no one marched when I was elected’.
At the time, she refused to describe him in flattering terms, simply calling Trump “consistent…the the same person that you see behind the scenes as he is in the public or through the media.”
“If Trump stays in office, I think Ardern will continue with her current two-track approach towards the administration,” Professor Paton added.
“On the one hand, working hard to achieve agreement where there is common ground.
“On the other hand, vigorously upholding New Zealand’s support for core foreign policy goals such as multilateralism and a rules-based international order.”
She may not have to worry about four more years of President Trump, however, with Biden comfortably leading by double digits in national polls while also edging crucial swing states.
It could mean a return to Obama-era relations between the White House and Auckland, removing a key political obstacle in Ardern’s pluralist agenda.
Biden spoke of the Wellington Declaration – an agreement between the US and New Zealand to strengthen cooperation signed in 2010 – as recently as July 2016.
With both the Democrats and Labour looking clear favourites to govern come 2021, the special relationship could well be rekindled.
Professor Paton said: “If Biden wins the election, the scope for expanding relations between an Ardern-led government in New Zealand and the US will be much greater.
“One of Jacinda Ardern’s predecessors, John Key, the former National PM, previously had a close relationship with Barack Obama and I would anticipate an equally close relationship between President Biden and Jacinda Ardern.”
Robert Patman is professor of politics and director of international studies at the University of Otago, New Zealand. You can find his latest book, New Zealand and the World, here. For Professor Patman’s videos on New Zealand politics, you can find his Youtube channel here.
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