Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has landed in Singapore after a clean Covid-19 test paved the way for her first overseas trip since 2020.
The RNZAF Boeing 757 arrived at Singapore Changi Airport around 8pm (NZT) this evening after departing Whenuapai Air Base in Auckland early this morning.
The Prime Minister is traveling with Trade Minister Damien O’Connor, ministry officials, a 12-person trade delegation and media.
All were tested for Covid-19 before leaving Auckland and again upon arrival in Singapore. They will administer daily rapid antigen tests overseas.
Speaking to Whenuapai before the start, Ardern thanked the team for “giving up [their] precious time” to represent the country abroad.
She said she was “very excited” to go overseas after a hiatus of more than two years.
“One of the parts of the job, when you’re auditioning for the role, that you don’t expect to be as important is foreign policy,” Ardern said.
“It’s hugely important to us as a trading nation – but also incredibly important at this point in our history when, now more than ever, our strategic relationships are crucial to us.”
Ardern is to spend two nights in Singapore before flying to Japan for another three nights.
But Japan has strict entry requirements prohibiting anyone returning a weak positive – even if it is from a previous infection.
“If anyone succumbs to Covid on this journey, we will of course make sure to give you all the care and support we can, but we will leave you there!” Ardern told the delegation.
If Ardern contracts the virus overseas, Trade Minister Damien O’Connor will take over during his isolation.
Ardern will be officially welcomed in Singapore at the presidential mansion Istana on Tuesday afternoon, before a meeting and then a press conference with Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.
Both Singapore and New Zealand are members of the Trans-Pacific Trade Agreement (CPTPP) – a topic that is sure to be discussed between the two leaders.
Ardern has previously signaled that she wants to discuss the possibility of enticing the United States to join the pact.
The two prime ministers will also discuss regional security issues, with New Zealand particularly concerned about China’s recent flexing in the Pacific through a proposed security pact with the Solomon Islands.
Later in the evening, Ardern will address Singaporean entrepreneurs and business leaders at a gala dinner promoting New Zealand trade and tourism.