Germany's Merkel a 'true leader': Ardern

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New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has paid tribute to outgoing German chancellor Angela Merkel, thanking her for being "genuinely interested in the views of a humble New Zealander".

Ardern commended Merkel on her 16-year leadership of Europe's largest economy, describing her as a "true leader and a very good person".

The leaders, held in high regard on the international stage as role models for women in policymaking, met virtually at a CEO forum on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation summit on Friday, where Ardern fondly recalled an early meeting between the pair in Germany.

"It's not often when you come from a small island nation that you'll find someone of such heft in the world of international diplomacy who felt so genuinely interested in the views of a humble New Zealander," she said.

"Your constant engagement with the world, thoughtfulness and willingness to hear the perspective of others, in my mind, is a reflection of a true leader but also just a very good person."

Merkel has cemented herself as an icon who has steered Germany since 2005 through milestone events including the global financial crisis, the eurozone downturn and the COVID-19 pandemic.

She is hailed as a champion of European integration.

Ardern took office in 2017 and has garnered global praise for her initial management of the COVID-19 pandemic - although New Zealand is struggling with a recent surge in Delta infections - cracking down on extremism and gun laws and assembling one of the world's most diverse cabinets.

The leaders agreed in the forum the challenges of the pandemic and of climate change were similar, since they were both exponential processes, the severity of which was hard to recognise at the start of a growth curve.

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