Yesterday the country’s Prime Minister gave a speech to the New Zealand Institute of International Affairs in which she provided an update on trade negotiations. She said talks on a trade deal with Britain were “well-advanced”, reflecting indications made by UK officials that a deal could be struck in the coming weeks.
However, giving her speech Ms Ardern also appeared to issue a threat to block the UK’s attempts to join the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP).
Boris Johnson has made joining the trade block a central focus of his post-Brexit vision for the UK.
He sees joining the group – made up of Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, and Vietnam – as a chance to open new markets for the UK.
CPTPP countries accounted for £110billion worth of UK trade in 2019, with exports growing year-on-year.
Last month the group agreed to formally start talks on Britain’s accession to the bloc, but in her speech yesterday Ms Ardern appeared to warn New Zealand could veto the UK’s application over concerns surrounding the implementation of the Northern Ireland Protocol.
She said: “Last month we joined consensus on the formation of a working group to negotiate the UK’s accession to CPTPP.
“Other economies will be able to join CPTPP too.
“CPTPP is our highest quality agreement.
“Those aspiring to join will have to be able to meet its high standards.”
Speaking about international relations after the pandemic, she added: “Governments will need to re-commit to supporting an open and rules-based regional order; one that’s more sustainable and resilient.
“And we must recommit to doing what we can, to encourage that change.
“We will do so in ways that are pragmatic, that advance our interests, and that are consistent with New Zealand’s values.”
Ms Ardern’s reference to countries needing to respect a “rules-based regional order” is likely to lead to raised eyebrows in Whitehall.
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The EU and US have repeatedly accused the UK failure to properly implement the Northern Ireland Protocol would mean breaking international law.
They claim failure to implement customs checks would result in a breach of international law.
US President Joe Biden has warned any actions by Britain which risk undermining the Good Friday Agreement will end hopes of a trade deal with Washington.
Ms Ardern’s comments will cause concern New Zealand may also side with Brussels over the diplomatic spat.
Downing Street has accused the EU of being “purist” in its implementation of the Protocol.
It has urged Brussels to be pragmatic in finding a solution to problems caused to trade within the UK due to the introduction of bureaucratic paperwork.
Lord Frost is currently in talks with the bloc to try and find a solution to the frictions caused by the Protocol.
He has warned the UK would be willing to tear up the mechanism if a solution is not found.