Jacinda Ardern and Fumio Kishida agree to enhance intelligence partnership, expand trade, protect the Pacific

New Zealand and Japan have agreed to enhance intelligence-sharing to bring the countries closer on international security issues.

And they committed to supporting a stable Pacific region, following bilateral talks last night between Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and her Japanese counterpart Fumio Kishida.

Ardern and Kishida also welcomed the Biden Administration’s Indo-Pacific Economic Framework initiative, a US initiative to step up engagement in the region while the US joining the CPTPP trade agreement is off the table.

But both Prime Ministers also “expressed their strong and shared desire for the United States’ return to the agreement”.

Ardern arrived at the Kishida’s office and residence last night to a formal welcome. She inspected the Guard of Honour before sitting down for formal bilateral talks, which she opened by emphasising the shared values of both nations and their support of a rules-based global order.

Kishida, in his opening translated remarks, said the Russian invasion of Ukraine had “shaken the very foundations of the international order, and I want to work closely with New Zealand to take resolute responses”.

And in the press conference afterwards, he said: “The world is at a crucial moment.”

Ardern and Kishida’s joint statement committed to starting negotiations on a legal framework for the “reciprocal protection of classified information exchanged between the Governments”, so it can be seamlessly shared.

“This will support closer engagement and support peace, stability and security in the Pacific and the wider Indo-Pacific region,” Ardern said.

Their joint statement didn’t name China, but the leaders also “reiterated the need to address growing strategic challenges in the Pacific that could destabilise the regional security environment”.

It follows the signing this week of the China-Solomons security pact, which has led to increasing concern about the possibility of Chinese military presence in the Pacific – though China and the Solomons insist it poses no threat to the region.

Ardern and Kishida noted the 70th anniversary of diplomatic relations between the two countries, and agreed on further areas of collaboration including trade and sustainability.

Trade between New Zealand and Japan has soared with the CPTPP, which has given New Zealand exporters far greater access to Japanese consumers. A 2019 Asia NZ Foundation-commissioned report said that, by one estimate, 80 per cent of the value of CPTPP to New Zealand comes from improved access to the Japanese market.

“I highlighted to Prime Minister Kishida the high-quality goods and services that New Zealand’s exporters offer Japan, particularly in food and beverage and technology,” Ardern said.

“We also noted the close partnerships between our businesses in renewable energy and the scope to build on these.”

Ardern also announced a New Zealand government investment of up to $8 million into joint research on Advanced Technologies, including renewable energy.

Earlier yesterday she launched two renewable energy New Zealand-Japan initiatives, the first one around hydrogen-powered EVs, the second around developing geothermal energy.

The initiative will feature a fleet of the Toyota Mirai being shared by eight New Zealand companies in a car-pooling trial – the Warehouse, Air New Zealand, Saatchi & Saatchi, TVNZ, Beca, Westpac NZ, Spark, and Z Energy.

She also visited a promotional event for Zespri – Japan is a $750 million market for Zespri – where she tried her hand at Japanese calligraphy, posed for photos with the famous mascots the Kiwi Brothers, and watched Trade Minister Damien O’Connor decorate a pavlova with kiwifruit.

Today is her final day of scheduled events in Japan.

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