New Zealand prime minister Jacinda Ardern will hold her first ever formal meeting with Donald Trump next week, the first time the two leaders have sat down together since taking office.
On Wednesday, Ardern will leave Wellington – amid a sexual assault crisis in her party – to visit Japan and the UN leaders general assembly meeting in New York, where she will give the keynote speech at the climate action summit. She will meet Trump in New York on Monday.
The two leaders have wildly divergent styles, to the extent that Vogue magazine dubbed Ardern “the anti-Trump”; citing her progressive values and work on women’s and children’s rights. The two also have a chequered history.
In November 2017, one month after Ardern took office, Trump allegedly mistook her for Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau’s wife at the east Asia summit in Vietnam.
Ardern later apologised for indiscreetly discussing the incident with a friend. The friend – comedian Tom Sainsbury – revealed in a radio interview that Ardern had told her Trump was “not as orange in real life”.
Ardern said she did not want to turn the issue into a “diplomatic incident”.
At the same conference Ardern also pointedly told Trump – “no one marched when I was elected” – a comment she later claimed was made in jest.
On 21 January 2017, the day after Trump’s inauguration, Ardern joined thousands in Auckland as part of the global women’s march, which arose in reaction to a series of allegations from women about sexual advances from the US president, as well as his plans to cut access to abortion across the US and in developing countries supported by US aid.
Ardern said the relationship between the US and New Zealand was robust and that she would focus on economic issues during her meeting. “Our relationship is strong. I’ve met President Trump on a number of occasions and had several phone calls with him ... I think my relationship [with Trump] is absolutely fine,” she said.
“The US is a key security partner for New Zealand, and an important trading partner.
“I’m looking forward to discussing a wide range of international and regional issues with President Trump, including our cooperation in the Pacific and the trade relationship between our countries.”
Before reaching the UN summit, Ardern will take part in an official summit with Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe in Tokyo and watch the All Blacks begin their Rugby World Cup defence in Yokohama.
Deputy prime minister and NZ First leader Winston Peters will be acting prime minister for the duration of the trip.
After becoming PM, Ardern praised Trump as “consistent”. “He is the same person that you see behind the scenes as he is in the public or through the media,” she told the New Zealand Herald.