Watch: Budget 2021 – Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern to lead business delegation to Australia

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern will lead a business delegation to Australia in July in a bid to “further strengthen business ties with our transtasman partners”.

It will be her first overseas trip since the Covid-19 pandemic began early last year.

And she also teased trips to the US and China – but not until borders re-open.

“With a change of administration there, and a deepening relationship with President Joe Biden across a range of issues, I intend to actively pursue an enhanced trade relationship with the US over the coming term.”

Speaking to a business audience in Auckland, Ardern also announced that Trade Minister Damien O’Connor will also be jet-setting soon.

He will travel to London and Brussels to progress negotiations for New Zealand’s free trade agreements with the UK and EU next month.

As with all returning New Zealanders, Minister O’Connor will undertake 14 days of MIQ upon return, and will be vaccinated ahead of departure.

Ardern did not say whether or not she would be vaccinated ahead of her trip.

But she did confirm that when New Zealand’s key trading partners over and above Australia look to re-open their borders, “I will look to lead delegations into Europe, the United States, China and the wider Asia-Pacific”.

“These trips may not have been overly notable pre-Covid, but they are hugely significant in light of the domestic realities we’ve been experiencing, and the global ones that still persist,” she said.

She also touched on what a post-vaccinated New Zealand may look like in her speech.

“The first question we are asking, is: do we need to have completed our vaccine rollout in order to open up our borders beyond the bubble arrangements we already have?
“Will people who’ve been vaccinated in other countries be able to come in even if we haven’t finished our vaccine roll out?,” she asked the audience.

“The answer,” she said, “is – possibly.”

But she said there were a number of things to consider.

“We will be relying heavily on emerging evidence about how effective vaccines are in preventing not just symptoms of the disease, but transmission between vaccinated individuals.”

The Government today released two child wellbeing reports, holding it to account on measures introduced in 2018 to reduce child poverty.

Ardern, who is Minister for Child Poverty Reduction, said the reports highlighted most children and young people in New Zealand were doing well, with many improvements in key measures.

“However, there is still a group of children for whom life at home is quite different.

“Too many children live in low-income households, or experience racism, bullying or violence. And overall, Māori, Pacific and disabled children and young people are more likely to experience worse outcomes.”

Last week, the Government’s announcement to freeze the pay of public servants was met with heavy criticism.

Under new government rules, three quarters of people working in the public sector are unlikely to get a salary increase until at least 2024.

No government employee earning over $100,000 a year will get a pay rise for the next three years and those earning between $60,000 and $100,000 will need to prove exceptional circumstances.

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