NZ's Ardern hails Biden unity message

Ben McKay
·2-min read

Jacinda Ardern has led New Zealand's congratulations to president-elect Joe Biden after the Democrat's triumph in the US election.

Mr Biden is the most senior US official to visit New Zealand in the last two decades, travelling in 2016 as vice president during a Pacific tour which included Australia.

Ms Ardern said New Zealand would be able to "develop even closer relations" with the US under Mr Biden's leadership.

"As vice president, Joe Biden was a close friend of New Zealand," the prime minister said on Sunday morning.

"The campaign by the president-elect has also shown the shared interests we have in addressing global challenges like COVID-19 and climate change.

"The message of unity from Joe Biden positions us well to take those challenges on."

On Thursday, Ms Ardern backed calls for vote-counting to continue in the election as president Donald Trump claimed a premature success.

The Labour leader is an avid follower of American politics and has lived in the US twice.

She studied for a semester at Arizona State University in 2001, during which time the World Trade Centre attacks occurred, before moving to New York briefly a few years later.

NZ opposition leader Judith Collins also congratulated the incoming presidential ticket.

"Congratulations to Joe Biden and Kamala Harris on their victory in the United States. New Zealand has an enduring relationship with the US which I want to see get even stronger. Let's get a free trade agreement done!" she tweeted.

New Zealand has pursued free trade talks with the US in various means for decades, without success.

On his visit four years ago, Mr Biden praised Kiwis and revealed he once travelled Ireland with his family during an All Blacks tour.

"There was nothing but carnage left behind," Mr Biden said, in comments alongside then-PM John Key.

"Americans and Kiwis are cut from the same cloth. Fiercely independent and tenacious ... there is a real genuine affection for New Zealand in the United States."

While Ms Ardern's comments followed swiftly from the affirmation of Mr Biden's success, she was beaten to the punch by another South Pacific leader.

Fiji's Frank Bainimarama tweeted support on Saturday afternoon, well before even Mr Biden had claimed victory.

"Congratulations Joe Biden. Together, we have a planet to save from a climate emergency and a global economy to build back better from COVID-19. Now, more than ever, we need the USA at the helm of these multilateral efforts," he said.

"And back in the Paris Agreement ASAP."

Mr Biden has pledged to return the US to the Paris Agreement - the major international framework for reducing greenhouse gas emissions - as one of his first acts in office.