Ardern's Asia swing hits COVID-19 snag

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Jacinda Ardern has announced a new climate change tie-up with Singapore, despite her Asian trade mission being hit by COVID-19.

New Zealand's prime minister has embarked on a six-day tour of Singapore and Japan, aiming to promote her nation's reopening to the world after two years of strict border controls.

Ms Ardern's 50-strong entourage includes business leaders, defence force personnel and media.

Three of the party, not including Ms Ardern, have tested positive with reportedly historical infections.

The trip is the first by the New Zealand PM since COVID-19 arrived in New Zealand in February 2020.

"(Travelling) is not without risk, but it is time now for New Zealand to be reaching out again, inviting people within this new normal to come and visit New Zealand because we are open for business," she said.

The three individuals will not be able to travel on to Tokyo for the next leg of the trip, and instead must head home.

On Tuesday afternoon, Ms Ardern met with Singapore's Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and announced climate change action would be added to the countries' Enhanced Partnership agreement, first signed in 2019.

The pact creates a new regular climate dialogue which includes sustainable aviation, low-carbon shipping and vehicles, and waste management.

The two countries will also work together with ASEAN nations to "provide capacity building training on carbon markets".

"Given the existential threat posed by climate change, it is fitting that today we agreed a joint statement that adds a fifth pillar to our Enhanced Partnership," Ms Ardern said.

Ms Ardern also announced a modest expansion to the New Zealand-Singapore working holiday scheme.

Up to 300 people, aged between 18 and 30 and with two years of tertiary education under their belt, will be able to work for 12 months in the other country under the revamped scheme.

"They travel, they enjoy, they experience (and there is) the dual benefit of tourism whilst also enabling them to have an income," Ms Ardern said.

"There will be those to come over and might find themselves in an area where we have a skills gap and we might encourage them to stay."

The pair also discussed "geostrategic pressures", including in Myanmar and Ukraine.

A joint statement stated "strong condemnation of the invasion and occupation of Ukraine and demanded Russia's immediate withdrawal".

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