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New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern Gets Her White House Invite

The two leaders are set to discuss regional issues, Ukraine, and gun control.

By , the newsletter writer at Foreign Policy.
U.S. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer meets with New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.
U.S. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer meets with New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.
U.S. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (left), with a bipartisan group of senators, meets with New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern at the U.S. Capitol in Washington on May 25. BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images

Welcome to today’s Morning Brief, looking at New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s White House agenda, a prospective European Union embargo on Russian oil, and more news worth following from around the world.

If you would like to receive Morning Brief in your inbox every weekday, please sign up here.


Ardern at the White House

Welcome to today’s Morning Brief, looking at New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s White House agenda, a prospective European Union embargo on Russian oil, and more news worth following from around the world.

If you would like to receive Morning Brief in your inbox every weekday, please sign up here.


Ardern at the White House

U.S. President Joe Biden hosts New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern at the White House today in a continuation of his Pacific-focused diplomacy of recent weeks.

Already a global star for her media savvy and strong leadership on COVID-19, the meeting helps cement Ardern’s position as a serious national leader ahead of New Zealand’s elections in 2023. Her immediate predecessor, Bill English, never made it to the White House despite an invitation from then-U.S. President Donald Trump if English was “passing by.”

Here’s what’s likely to keep the leaders busy in today’s meeting.

Ukraine. Although New Zealand is a minor player in the Western alliance opposing Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the issue is still expected to top today’s agenda.

Despite some criticism within her own party of circumventing parliamentary debate on the issue, Ardern’s government has provided some assistance to Ukraine as well as joining Western sanctions efforts. This month, New Zealand assigned 30 military personnel to help train Ukrainian forces to operate light artillery and has donated $10.2 million to a military equipment fund.

Indo-Pacific competition. The Biden-Ardern meeting comes at a time when the United States and China are competing for influence in the region. Biden can breathe a sigh of relief that a region-wide trade and security agreement proposed by China for Pacific Island nations has been put on ice for lack of consensus.

With a military budget around one-tenth the size of its neighbor Australia, New Zealand is likely to look to economic rather than defense ties to deepen its relationship with the United States. Ardern’s hopes for a future U.S.-New Zealand free trade agreement moved a little closer after she signed up for the newly created Indo-Pacific Economic Framework for Prosperity, though the new grouping doesn’t have any binding trade aspect.

Speaking in Washington last week, Ardern urged the United States to return to one trade agreement that does: the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership. “If the United States is looking to engage in our region economically, then that is the place to do it,” she said.

Gun control. Given the recent mass shootings in the United States, the two leaders are also expected to discuss gun control. While the United States endures shooting after shooting and settles in to what columnist Maureen Dowd in the New York Times described as a phenomenon of “child sacrifice,” New Zealand’s swift response to its 2019 Christchurch massacres—which included a ban on all assault rifles—provides an uncomfortable example to dithering U.S. leaders as to what’s possible.

Ardern already spoke succinctly on the subject last week at her commencement address at Harvard University. “We knew we needed significant gun reform, and so that is what we did,” she said.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has already followed in her footsteps, introducing legislation on Monday freezing (already heavily regulated) handgun purchases and limiting magazines to five bullets.


The World This Week

Tuesday, May 31: Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov pays a two-day visit to Bahrain.

Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen meets with a U.S. delegation led by Sen. Tammy Duckworth.

An extraordinary EU leaders summit in Brussels concludes.

Pakistani Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif heads to Turkey on a three-day visit.

Wednesday, June 1: Saudi Arabia hosts Lavrov at a meeting of Gulf Cooperation Council foreign ministers.

Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz visits India.

South Korea holds local elections.

Denmark votes on whether to retain its ability to opt out from issues of EU defense policy.

Thursday, June 2: OPEC+ oil ministers hold their monthly meeting.

Britain begins celebrations for Queen Elizabeth II’s 70 years as the British monarch.

Sunday, June 5: NATO allies begin the Ramstein Legacy 2022 military exercise.


What We’re Following Today

The EU’s Russian oil embargo. EU leaders are expected to sign off on an agreement to ban Russian oil imports after tense negotiations among member states. In a compromise, Russian oil delivered via pipeline (about a third of imports) will be exempted from the ban for now, with a phased approach to deliver a ban on 90 percent of Russian oil by year’s end.

Israel-UAE relations. Israel and the United Arab Emirates are set to deepen ties today by signing a free trade agreement. Israeli Economy Minister Orna Barbivai travels to Dubai for the signing alongside UAE Foreign Trade Minister Thani bin Ahmed Al Zeyoudi. The deal is the first of its kind signed between Israel and an Arab country.


Keep an Eye On

Sudan’s transition. Sudan’s military leader, Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, has lifted the state of emergency imposed when he took power during an Oct. 25 coup last year. In a statement, the transitional Sovereign Council said the decision was taken to begin “a fruitful and meaningful dialogue that achieves stability during the transitional period.”

Colombia’s future. Colombia voted for change in the first round of its presidential election on Sunday, though the final verdict wont be delivered until the runoff on June 19. Gustavo Petro could become Colombia’s first leftist president after he received roughly 40 percent of the total first-round vote, but he faces a strong challenge from a man some refer to as “Colombias Trump.”

In a repudiation of outgoing Colombian President Iván Duque Márquez, the pro-business conservative Federico Gutiérrez failed to take second place, as right-wing populist Rodolfo Hernández won 28 percent of the vote, 4 percent ahead of Gutiérrez.


Odds and Ends

Britain may take another step closer to the United States as British Prime Minister Boris Johnson plans to allow the scrapping of metric measurements in favor of imperial ones in British shops. The move would also bring the country closer to Liberia and Myanmar, the only other countries to officially use imperial measurements. Britain currently uses a mixed system.

The change is considered a cynical ploy for pro-Brexit voters, who consider the metric system a continental imposition. Representatives from opposition parties have labeled the move a distraction.

Colm Quinn is the newsletter writer at Foreign Policy. Twitter: @colmfquinn

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