New Zealand PM Ardern heads to US with White House meeting uncertain

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern will lead a trade delegation to the US. PHOTO: REUTERS

WELLINGTON (BLOOMBERG) - New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern will lead a trade delegation to the United States this week but is yet to confirm a meeting with President Joe Biden at the White House due to her recent Covid-19 infection.

Ms Ardern leaves on Monday evening (May 23) New Zealand time and will be accompanied by Trade Minister Damien O'Connor and business leaders from companies including Silver Fern Farms, Fonterra and Zespri.

She only recently emerged from isolation after a bout of Covid-19, which has complicated plans for a meeting with Mr Biden.

"Covid-19 protocols are the curve ball we are dealing with at the moment," Ms Ardern told Radio New Zealand.

"I am the only leader I know of who has gone into the US with an infection in such close proximity, so it means there are a few extra things for us to work through. There is really goodwill on both sides to make it work."

The Prime Minister tested positive for Covid-19 on May 14 and was required to isolate for seven days until May 21.

As a result, Ms Ardern was not in Parliament last week for two big political set pieces - the budget and the emissions reduction plan.

If she can meet Mr Biden, topics on the agenda will centre on the evolving role of the US in the Pacific, Ms Ardern said.

Much of her visit is focused on trade and tourism opportunities.

The stops on her trip include New York, where she will call on the United Nations secretary-general; Washington, where she will meet senior members of the Senate; and Boston, where she will give the commencement address at Harvard University.

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