Virus Rules and China to Dominate Australia-New Zealand Leaders Talks

By AAP
May 30, 2021 Updated: May 30, 2021

New Zealand (NZ) Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says she wants to “keep writing the COVID-19 rulebook” with Australia during talks with fellow leader Scott Morrison.

The Australian and New Zealand leaders say they’ll write new pages in the COVID-19 rulebook when they meet for formal talks on Monday.

Morrison and Ardern are in Queenstown for the annual Australia-New Zealand Leaders Forum.

Morrison is making a whistlestop trip: he’s in Aotearoa (the Māori name for New Zealand) for just under 24 hours, and the actual talks will go for less than three hours.

The pair will start their day by laying a wreath at the Arrowtown War Memorial, before settling into their policy agenda.

Both have dropped hints about what will be discussed.

China is a major talking point.

New Zealand has signalled it will join Australia in a World Trade Organisation dispute with Beijing after the communist regime levied tariffs against Australia on barley.

“We rely on the rules-based trading system to provide a secure and predictable global trading environment for everyone so we will act to uphold it,” NZ Trade Minister Damien O’Connor said.

The move is a sign that the two trans-Tasman allies, both of which have strong—in Australia’s case, mutually beneficial—trade with China, are unified.

This comes after Beijing has for over a year waged a campaign of economic coercion against Australia in response to Foreign Minister Marise Payne calling for an inquiry into the origins of COVID-19, which originated in Wuhan, China.

Morrison said the Australia-New Zealand partnership “will be even more vital in the years ahead as we both confront an increasingly challenging geostrategic environment.”

“These talks will be an important opportunity for us to continue our efforts to support an open, inclusive, and resilient Indo-Pacific,” he added.

Morrison has referenced a possible biosecurity deal being announced on Monday.

Both leaders are expected to discuss their rollout of COVID-19 vaccines in the Pacific after committing 7.5 million doses to the developing region.

Addressing business leaders on Sunday night, Ardern said she was most eager to talk about the next phase of COVID-19 planning.

“The path that New Zealand and Australia carved (during COVID-19) was unique, and it continues to be unique,” Ardern said.

“That however means there is no rulebook for us.

“We’re both looking forward to the next day of talks, that next stage of writing the rulebook.

“As we both grapple with the challenge of how we safely re-open ourselves up to the world, whilst holding on to all the gains we’ve made, those are conversations that I would love to be able to have together—to write that rule book together,” she said.

By Ben McKay. Epoch Times reporter Caden Pearson contributed to this report.