April 28, 2021
Prime Minister, New Zealand
Former Executive Vice President and Head of International Affairs, U.S. Chamber of Commerce
The small nation of New Zealand has gained global recognition for its coronavirus response, as well as its handling of domestic and foreign issues. All of the country’s recent achievements have stemmed from the leadership of its Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern.
Ardern, the 40th Prime Minister of New Zealand, had earned respect, even before the pandemic. She got into politics at age 18 and became the youngest person and the second woman to lead New Zealand's Labour Party. This past October, she was reelected in a landslide victory for both herself and the Labour Party.
New Zealand's success under Ardern’s leadership can offer many benefits and lessons for the United States, as well as the rest of the world. Here are three insights from New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern on her country’s current state of affairs and its future as a growing global power.
New Zealand Is Looking to Strengthen Its Relationship With the United States
The United States and New Zealand have always been allies, and Ardern is looking to build upon that relationship to strengthen both countries.
“In the current environment for me, the question is, ‘How can we continue to learn from one another? How can we continue to work together?’” said Ardern.
“We're really looking for opportunities for us to build those economic ties,” she continued. “When it comes to the U.S., we've got opportunities as New Zealand moves forward into the next year … to say ‘the interest in our region and the connection to our region with the United States is already strong. How can we further embed that into our economic architecture over the next few years?’”
Ardern Believes COVID-19 Vaccine Access Is a Global Issue
When it comes to New Zealand's domestic COVID-19 vaccine rollout, Ardern is taking a cue from the United States.
“Our focus has always been very much on the health and well-being of our population,” she said. “We've tried to tailor our response to the needs of our population.”
“I take great heart from seeing the progress that the United States is making in the vaccine program and the difference that it is making in response to the pandemic,” Ardern continued. “But our recoveries will not be straightforward, and they will not be easy.”
She also believes that first-world countries and those that have been successful in combating the virus, such as the U.S. and New Zealand, need to have a strong voice when it comes to international cooperation on the vaccine rollout for other countries.
“If [a country sees] the need for a vaccine distribution across the globe as either an act of aid or an act of diplomacy, then we are looking at it through the wrong lens,” she said. “My view is that it needs to be viewed as important as our own domestic response to COVID, and that's for the simple fact that we are individually not safe until we are all safe.”
New Zealand Is Leveraging All Its Resources to Fight Climate Change
One of Ardern’s priorities as a world leader is putting New Zealand in a position to do everything it can to combat climate change.
“Here in New Zealand, that means passing our zero-carbon action legislation, which sees that we need to put ourselves on a trajectory for no more than 1.5 degrees of warming,” said Ardern. “As part of our work to address what is the most significant source of emissions for New Zealand and that is our food production, our agricultural sector. We've formed a collective partnership…working with the sector to try and reduce our emissions in that sector as well. And we're the first country in the world that has committed to pricing mechanisms across the board, including agriculture.”
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