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Omens look good for Ardern’s first meeting with global leaders

Opinion Piece

Everything seems to happen in a rush for new Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, who is now on her first major overseas mission. The luck that has been with her so far seems to be sticking, with the possibility of an early success in foreign affairs.

Ardern landed in Vietnam for the APEC meeting to the news this morning that two trade ministers involved believe the TPP 11 is a done deal — although they would not release details.

The advance work was done by Ardern’s Trade Minister David Parker, who has quickly established himself as a pivotal member of her Cabinet, and chief negotiator Vangelis Vitalis.

There is still the thorny issue of the investor dispute settlement clause that the Government would like to renegotiate, but Ardern has said this is not a game-breaker.

The omens for her meeting with other APEC leaders at 8pm today (NZ time) are looking good.

A revised TPP deal with 10 other countries would be a major success for her. It would also continue her meteoric rise since taking over what looked like a poisoned chalice, as Labour’s leader, from Andrew Little only last August and lifting the party to power — albeit shared with two partners.

There is little doubt that her fresh face and quick command of the role was a huge positive for Labour, and she connected with a desire to see progress made on issues like homelessness and child poverty.

Ardern supported this theme in the Speech from the Throne (which the Governor-General delivers and is written by the Prime Minister) at the opening of Parliament, by saying this will be a government of inclusion.

Faced with a slightly bellicose Bill English defending the National government’s record at Parliament’s first sitting, she neatly deflected that saying the new government’s main task was repairing the effects of that record such as dirty rivers and lakes, and child poverty.

If politics is, as is sometimes claimed, about luck and timing —Ardern has both on her side so far.