New Zealand PM Goes on First Post-COVID Overseas Trip to Promote Tourism

New Zealand PM Goes on First Post-COVID Overseas Trip to Promote Tourism
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern (L) and her Singaporean counterpart Lee Hsien Loong attend a MOU signing ceremony at the Istana Presidential palace in Singapore on May 17, 2019. (Roslan Rahman/AFP via Getty Images)
Rebecca Zhu

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern departed on Monday for a six-day trade mission to Singapore and Japan, her first overseas trip since COVID-19 began.

Ardern is hoping to promote New Zealand tourism and education in the two Asian nations and support local businesses rebuild and grow connections in both markets.

"This is a chance to be out there talking about the fact that New Zealand is open," Ardern told reporters before take-off.

The prime minister will be joined by Trade Minister Damien O’Connor and 13 business leaders, including Fonterra CEO Miles Hurrell.

“This first trade mission is part of our wider plan to reconnect with the world following the devastation caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, strengthening partnerships between government, business, and industry will help accelerate our strong economic recovery,” Ardern previously said in a statement.

As part of her three-day trip in Singapore, Ardern will attend an official welcoming ceremony and an official lunch hosted by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

“Prime Minister Ardern’s visit reaffirms the excellent relations between Singapore and New Zealand, underpinned by the Singapore-New Zealand Enhanced Partnership established during Prime Minister Ardern’s Official Visit to Singapore in 2019,” Singapore’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement.

Ardern will also meet Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida for the first time to discuss global and regional challenges.

She will also address the Japan-New Zealand Business Council and meet with business and industry leaders.

This year also marks New Zealand’s 70th year anniversary of diplomatic relations with Japan.

The trade minister said unlocking opportunities in key markets was an important trade strategy as the country begins reconnecting with the world.

“Japan is New Zealand’s fourth largest trading partner, with our major exports including horticulture, dairy and meat. Our two-way trade totalled NZ$8.34 billion (US$5.6 billion) to the year ended December 2021,” O’Connor said.

“Singapore is our fifth largest with a total of NZ$6.56 billion in two-way trade over the same period. Singapore is an important market for dairy and tourism and are also a key regional hub for New Zealand exports and imports,” he added.

Despite the tourism promotion, all tourists, except those from Australia, are still barred from entering the country until May 2.

Ardern is also expected to visit Australia, the United States, and Europe this year.