Remarks by President Biden and Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern of New Zealand before Bilateral Meeting
11:15 A.M. EDT
PRESIDENT BIDEN: Well, good morning, everybody. And it’s good to see a not-so-old but a good friend here. Prime Minister, welcome to the White House. And we last saw each other at the launch of the Indo-Pacific Framework —
PRIME MINISTER ARDERN: Yes.
PRESIDENT BIDEN: — which is, I think, a fairly big deal for all of us, and we need your guidance. And we’re — and, you know, it’s a pleasure to see you in person.
You understand that your leadership has taken on a critical role in this global stage — and it really has — galvanizing action on climate change; the global effort to curb violence, extremism, and online, like happened in Christchurch.
And — you know, we want to be — I want to work with you on that effort. And I want to talk to you about what those conversations were like, if you’re willing.
The United States is, you know — it’s just been — there’s a — there’s an expression by an Irish poet that says, “Too long a suffering makes a stone of the heart.” Well, there’s an awful lot of suffering. We’ve been — I — I’ve been to more mass shooting aftermaths than, I think, any President in American history, unfortunately. And it’s — it’s just — so much of it is — much of it is preventable, and the devastation is — is amazing.
Yesterday — or not — the day before, I was up — I was down in Texas. And people sat in a room — about 250 of them in a large room — with me for almost four hours. Not — nobody left. They waited until aft- — until I spoke to every single person in that room. Every single person, they waited to the very end. And the — they — the pain is palpable.
And you’ve been one of our closest partners with a long history and friendship. Eighty years ago, Marines landed in New Zealand before embarking on — into the Pacific Theater in World War Two. And I think I told you, when I met my — my — two of my mother’s brothers who were in the Pacific — they used to be able to deploy at the same time in those days, in World War Two. And one was shot down in New Guinea. And they never found the body. But it’s — you know, it’s — the history goes back a long way — a long way.
And I want to, by the way, recognize New Zealand’s significant support for Ukraine, as a lot of Indo-Pacific countries are doing now. And — because this is more than just a regional war going on.
So, I look forward to our conversations today. We have a lot to talk about. And I’m really, really delighted to have you here — really.
PRIME MINISTER ARDERN: Thank you. And can I say, Mr. President, thank you, so much — so much —
PRESIDENT BIDEN: You — you can do anything you want.
PRIME MINISTER ARDERN: Great. (Laughs.) Thank you. And we really welcome this opportunity.
As you’ve said, we’ve spoken on several occasions. And what stood out to me on both those occasions were we traversed such similar issues, and not — not least, of course, our shared history.
You speak of your uncle’s service in the Pacific; my grandfather served in the Pacific. And I think that speaks to the personal connection but also the depth of our friendship and relationship as two countries.
We are in an incredibly difficult international environment. But also, domestically, it is extraordinarily challenging as well. And can I bring the sincere condolences of the people of Aotearoa New Zealand for what you have experienced in Texas and in New York? And it’s been devastating to see the impact on those communities.
Our experience, of course, in this regard, is our own. But if there’s anything that we can share that would be of any value, we are here to share it.
PRESIDENT BIDEN: Well, the work you’re doing with tech companies is really important, and I want —
PRIME MINISTER ARDERN: Absolutely.
PRESIDENT BIDEN: — to work with you there as well.
PRIME MINISTER ARDERN: And I absolutely look forward to updating you on some of the conversations we’ve had this week because I hold hope that we can make progress.
I also wanted just to acknowledge your leadership in bringing to the table the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework. And whilst, of course, we are significant advocates for the CPTPP, the IPEF presents a significant opportunity to build the economic resilience of our region. So, I look forward to having a bit of a discussion about that opportunity as well.
I also want to acknowledge your significant leadership on Ukraine and how important that has been not only to us as we’ve looked to play a role as well, but globally as we look to make sure that we strengthen the international response to what is a threat to our values and, of course, the territorial sovereignty of Ukraine.
I do want to finish on a note of optimism. Climate change also is one of the greatest threats that we face. And I believe that, in you, not only have we seen the leadership but the opportunity that exists between our nations to work together on this incredibly difficult issue that will only be resolved if we work together.
So, thank you. With — as you’ve seen, we’ve got a lot to discuss, so —
PRESIDENT BIDEN: We’ve got a lot to do. And I want to emphasize the last point you made: “working together.”
PRIME MINISTER ARDERN: Absolutely.
PRESIDENT BIDEN: We are not coming to dictate or lay down the law. We —
PRIME MINISTER ARDERN: Yeah.
PRESIDENT BIDEN: — we have more work to do in those Pacific Islands as well. I mean, we’ve — and so, we talked at length about — in the past about my trip to Japan and Korea and then dealing with the Quad. And so — but I think there’s a lot of opportunity —
PRIME MINISTER ARDERN: Yeah, I agree.
PRESIDENT BIDEN: — to make the world safer and deal with the environment.
PRIME MINISTER ARDERN: I agree. I agree. So, thank you.
PRESIDENT BIDEN: Thank you.
Thank you all very much.
Q Mr. President, will you meet with Senator McConnell on guns?
PRESIDENT BIDEN: I will meet with the Congress on guns. I promise you.
11:22 A.M. EDT.
Joint Readout of Meeting Between Prime Minister Ardern and Vice President Harris
Today, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern of New Zealand and Vice President Kamala Harris met at the White House and jointly reaffirmed the strong and deep relationship between the United States and New Zealand, based on shared values, people-to-people ties, and cooperation across a wide range of bilateral, regional, and global challenges.
The Prime Minister and the Vice President welcomed the completion of negotiations on the bilateral Space Framework Agreement, which will be the foundation of our already robust civil space cooperation in the years ahead. The Framework will underpin the two nations’ cooperation including in: space science, earth science, sustainability, education, and technology. The Prime Minister and the Vice President reviewed the growing space partnership between the United States and New Zealand, including in supporting space exploration and taking action on climate change. They looked forward to future exchanges between the two countries.
The Prime Minister and the Vice President agreed on the importance of establishing and upholding international rules and norms to promote the peaceful, sustainable, and responsible use of outer space. They agreed that our two nations will work together to uphold and strengthen a rules-based international order for space and that we will work constructively with commercial industry, allies, and partners, and through multilateral fora to support the safety, stability, security, and long-term sustainability of space activities.
The Prime Minister and the Vice President discussed mutual efforts to combat violent extremism and radicalisation. They condemned recent mass shootings in the United States, including in Buffalo, Laguna Woods, and Uvalde, and agreed that we all must stand up against hate and violence.
United States – Aotearoa New Zealand Joint Statement
A 21st-Century Partnership for the Pacific, the Indo-Pacific, and the World
President Joseph R. Biden, Jr. is honored to welcome Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern of Aotearoa New Zealand to the White House. The leaders reaffirmed the strategic partnership between the United States and New Zealand, as expressed in the 2010 Wellington Declaration and the 2012 Washington Declaration.
Our peoples have served side-by-side to uphold international peace and security for over a century; 80 years ago, during the Second World War, U.S. Marines arrived in New Zealand before embarking for the Pacific theatre. Together we honor that history of shared resolve in the face of aggression, in the pursuit of peace, and in our common respect for sovereignty, territorial integrity, and the peaceful resolution of disputes. We note that, since then, our ties have broadened and deepened, founded on shared values of democracy, fundamental freedoms, and the rule of law. Today, President Biden and Prime Minister Ardern committed to advance our longstanding partnership to meet 21st-century challenges: bolstering security and building resilience, including to climate change, in the Pacific; promoting prosperity in the Indo-Pacific; and combatting the climate crisis and ensuring the responsible use of technology around the world.
We meet at a time of great challenge. The COVID-19 pandemic continues to wreak a human and economic toll, even as the climate crisis becomes ever more urgent. Technology brings both opportunity and threat, including the scourge of online radicalization to violence. The rules-based international order that has long been the foundation of peace and prosperity is under pressure.In the Indo-Pacific, we face a challenging landscape, where the values, norms, and rules that have fostered stability, growth, and prosperity in recent decades are under threat. In Europe, meanwhile, Russia continues to wage its unjustified and unprovoked war in Ukraine. Taken together, these challenges call for common purpose and action, across the Atlantic and the Pacific.
I. Regional Architecture and Security
Our partnership is global, but it is centered in the Indo-Pacific. The United States and New Zealand are committed to realizing a region of sovereign, resilient, and prosperous states, based on the international rules-based order, where states, including and especially small states, can pursue their interests free from coercion. This vision is reflected in the Indo-Pacific Strategy of the United States, which New Zealand welcomes; and in New Zealand’s Indo-Pacific policy as outlined by Prime Minister Ardern in 2021.
The United States and New Zealand share a strong commitment to the regional architecture. We jointly recognize the importance of a strong and unified Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to an open, inclusive, stable, and prosperous Indo-Pacific. We reaffirm our strong support for ASEAN centrality and the ASEAN Outlook on the Indo-Pacific. We value the Pacific Islands Forum, of which New Zealand is a member and the United States is a Forum Dialogue Partner, as the preeminent political regional body and a critical driver of Pacific regional cooperation, security, and stability. We appreciate that the Quad—the grouping of Australia, Japan, India, and the United States—plays an important role in delivering practical support to the region, including providing COVID-19 vaccines and improving maritime domain awareness. We note the shared commitment among New Zealand and AUKUS partners to the peace and stability of the Indo-Pacific region, and to upholding the international rules-based order.
We reaffirm our steadfast commitment to the Pacific Islands region, with a strong and united Pacific Islands Forum at the center. Prime Minister Ardern welcomed the United States’ decision to heighten its engagement with this vital region, reflected in its recent appointment of a Special Presidential Envoy for Compact Negotiations and its commitments to expand its physical diplomatic presence across the Pacific. President Biden resolved to raise U.S. ambition in partnering with the Pacific Islands still higher and to match that ambition with resourcing.
Throughout our engagement, the United States and New Zealand will continue to support the Pacific region’s own priorities, which will be reflected in the Forum’s upcoming 2050 Strategy for the Blue Pacific Continent. At the top of this agenda is addressing the climate crisis, which, as the Pacific Islands Forum’s Boe Declaration states, is the single greatest threat to the Pacific and the health and well-being of its residents. New Zealand and the United States also affirmed their commitment to an approach to Pacific fisheries that is led by Pacific countries, protecting the marine environment, livelihoods, traditions, food security, and economic benefits.
Our countries will expand our work in the Pacific on infrastructure, including transportation and information-communications technology; cyber security; maritime security, including combatting illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing; education and skills training; COVID-19 pandemic assistance and global health security; and economic recovery. At the same time, we will promote democratic governance, free and fair elections, media freedom, and transparency; we will increase respect for human rights and the rule of law, and expand access to justice in Pacific countries, including through a new joint program to bolster the role of women in the justice sector. To best deliver these and other commitments in the Pacific, President Biden and Prime Minister Ardern committed to deepen coordination between the United States and New Zealand, and with other likeminded allies and partners, as we work together in support of Pacific priorities.
We are concerned with growing strategic competition in the Pacific region, which threatens to undermine existing institutions and arrangements that underpin the region’s security. The United States acknowledged that Pacific Islands Forum Members have a strong commitment to support one another to meet the broader ambitions for the region’s security, as set out in the Biketawa Declaration and Boe Declaration. We recognize that Pacific Islands Forum Members have worked hard together to meet one another’s security needs, and today have the capacity and commitment to continue doing so. In this regard, we note with concern the security agreement between the People’s Republic of China and the Solomon Islands. In particular, the United States and New Zealand share a concern that the establishment of a persistent military presence in the Pacific by a state that does not share our values or security interests would fundamentally alter the strategic balance of the region and pose national-security concerns to both our countries.
A freer and more open Indo-Pacific depends on preserving the international rules-based order in the maritime domain. To that end, we reaffirm our support for freedom of navigation and overflight, in the South China Sea and beyond, in accordance with the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). We oppose unlawful maritime claims and activities in the South China Sea that run counter to the rules-based international order, particularly UNCLOS. We reiterate our grave concerns regarding the human-rights violations in Xinjiang, and the erosion of rights and freedoms in Hong Kong, which undermines the high degree of autonomy enshrined in the Sino-British Joint Declaration and the Basic Law. We underscore the importance of peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait and encourage the peaceful resolution of cross-Strait issues.
We affirm our commitment to the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and urge the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) to abide by its obligations under United Nations Security Council (UNSC) resolutions and return to negotiations. The leaders jointly condemn the DPRK’s destabilizing ballistic missile tests this year, including multiple launches of intercontinental ballistic missiles, as clear violations of UNSC resolutions; they reaffirmed their commitment to work with the international community to address DPRK sanctions violations, including its illicit ship-to-ship transfers. We condemn the coup in Myanmar and the military’s brutal attacks on civilians. We continue to call for the immediate cessation of violence, the release of all who are unjustly detained, unfettered countrywide humanitarian access, and a swift return to democracy.
Beyond the Indo-Pacific, the leaders strongly condemned Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, which is in flagrant violation of international law. President Biden and Prime Minister Ardern discussed the financial and military support that both countries have provided to Ukraine, reviewed the ongoing application of sanctions our two countries have designed to deny the Kremlin the means to continue to prosecute its war in Ukraine, and considered what further measures could be taken to bolster the diplomatic effort. Alongside the European Union and international partners, our countries have condemned the campaign of disruptive and destructive cyber activity by Russia against Ukraine. And as food-exporting nations, we recognize the importance of ensuring that global supply chains for food and agricultural products remain free and open, and we are concerned by the severe impact of Russia’s attacks on civilian infrastructure and its blockading of Ukraine’s sea ports on global food security.
We highlight the importance of full implementation of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and look forward to working together to achieve a meaningful outcome at the forthcoming Review Conference.
Today, we acknowledge that security and defense will become an ever-more-important focus of our strategic partnership. We look to increase the interoperability of our forces, including through personnel exchanges, co-deployments, and defense trade. Achieving this vision will require robust and sustained commitment to defense in the Pacific. As New Zealand takes delivery of new capabilities, we will look for opportunities for combined operations and to expand our cooperation in other ways. As the security environment in the Indo-Pacific evolves, so must our defense cooperation.
II. Indo-Pacific Prosperity
The United States and New Zealand will deepen our economic ties, with each other and the region. Bilaterally, we intend to work together to promote growth in both our economies for the benefit of all our citizens, and to explore how we can expand bilateral trade and investment in order to strengthen the security of our supply chains and economic resilience. To that end, the United States and New Zealand will resume annual Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) discussions.
Regionally, the United States and New Zealand look forward to working together to progress the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework for Prosperity (IPEF), alongside 12 other founding partners: Australia, Brunei, Fiji, India, Indonesia, Japan, the Republic of Korea, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam. President Biden and Prime Minister Ardern warmly welcomed Fiji’s recent decision to join IPEF as a founding member—the first Pacific Island nation to do so.
We reiterate the value of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC)—which
New Zealand hosted in 2021 and the United States will host in 2023—as a forum for supporting trade and economic growth in the region in fulfilment of APEC Leaders’ vision for an open, dynamic, resilient, and peaceful Asia-Pacific Community. We reaffirm our joint commitment to rationalize and phase out inefficient fossil-fuel subsidies that encourage wasteful consumption, recalling the Glasgow Climate Pact and APEC Leaders’ commitment to this goal. In doing so, we recognize that inefficient fossil-fuel subsidies distort markets, disadvantage renewable and clean energy, and undermine efforts to deal with the threat of climate change.
We intend to ensure that a free and open rules-based global trade system built on high standards and long-standing principles serves the interest of the citizens of both of our countries; to that end, we affirm our commitment to reform and strengthen the World Trade Organization (WTO), and to work together to secure outcomes that provide for meaningful disciplines at the upcoming 12th WTO Ministerial Conference.
III. 21st-Century Challenges
Our deepening ties are vital to our ability to meet transnational challenges. Climate change poses an existential threat, in our countries and around the world, with the potential for devastating impacts in the Pacific region. We are urgently pursuing efforts toward net-zero emissions in our economies and limiting global average temperature rise to no more than 1.5 degrees, and commit to enhanced collaborative engagement on climate-change issues. We will work together to accelerate the uptake of the technologies, innovation, and investment needed for our transition to productive, sustainable, and inclusive low-emissions economies. We commit to producing plans to reduce methane emissions to support national and global efforts under the Global Methane Pledge. We will enhance our efforts to support an empowered low-emissions transition and to address climate impacts in the Pacific, including by supporting activities that build the resilience and adaptive capacity of small island developing states. We will also enhance our efforts to ensure the environmental integrity of carbon markets, and to ensure the mutual supportiveness of trade and climate policy.
As maritime democracies, we will cooperate on ocean governance. We will work together on protection and sustainable use of the ocean; decarbonizing the shipping sector, including by supporting the establishment of green-shipping corridors; and promoting maritime security, including by combatting challenges such as illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing. We also intend to work together on complementary approaches to achieve the objective of protecting maritime zones from challenge in the face of sea-level rise, through continued dialogue between law-of-the-sea experts. Noting our longstanding and shared interest in protecting Antarctica as a place for peace and science, and our decades of research collaboration, we reaffirm our commitment to the principles and the letter of the Antarctic Treaty system.
President Biden and Prime Minister Ardern committed to helping end the acute phase of the COVID-19 pandemic while also working to prevent, detect, prepare for, and respond to future global health emergencies and pandemic threats. With key partners, the United States and New Zealand have delivered more than 200 million life-saving doses of vaccine to the Indo-Pacific region, and we continue our efforts to address new phases of the pandemic. We will accelerate progress on immunization and increase access to testing, therapeutics, oxygen, and other lifesaving measures to prevent hospitalizations and deaths. Both leaders commended the commitments made at the recent Global COVID-19 Summit. In addition to supporting the ongoing work of the World Health Organization and the ACT-Accelerator, Prime Minister Ardern committed to support in-principle the establishment of a global health security fund for pandemic preparedness and response. Both leaders also reaffirmed their strong support for the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria, including as an ACT-Accelerator partner, and its Seventh Replenishment later this year. We affirm the importance of strengthening the resilience and responsiveness of the global health architecture, and are committed to negotiations underway on a new instrument to strengthen pandemic prevention, preparedness, and response, with a strengthened World Health Organization able to fulfill its central and coordinating role in international health work. They are also committed to working together to improve elements of the existing system, such as the International Health Regulations.
We must also address the virus of hate, online and offline. The leaders emphasized the need to take action to keep our people safe from gun violence. The Prime Minister expressed her personal condolences to President Biden and to the American people for the tragedies in Uvalde, Texas and Buffalo, New York.
In the face of online radicalization to violence, we share a commitment to work together to ensure that technology is used in ways that promote and advance human rights. As supporters of the Christchurch Call, we pledge to continue our work alongside civil society and the technology sector to counter terrorist and violent extremist content online, including racially or ethnically motivated violent extremism, while promoting human rights online and a free, open, global, interoperable, reliable, and secure internet. We look forward to our countries participating in the Christchurch Call Leaders’ Summit in September this year, during which we intend to announce new measures to better understand and address online radicalization by promoting algorithmic transparency and data access, designing and implementing evidence-based interventions, optimizing and closing loopholes in crisis response, and advancing innovation by drawing on multi-stakeholder partners.
Even as we address the dangers of misuse of technology, we are committed to working together to protect and amplify its benefits. As supporters of the Declaration for the Future of the Internet, and members of the Freedom Online Coalition, the Open Government Partnership, and the Global Partnership on AI, we commit to pursuing multi-stakeholder approaches to support an open, free, global, interoperable, reliable, and secure internet and the responsible and ethical use of emerging technology. We will continue to work together to build strategies and share best practices to counter disinformation and misinformation, the spread of which threatens our democratic values and institutions. We also recognize the need for a diverse cohort of young people to help us navigate a digitally enabled future in line with our shared values. We plan to look for training and placement opportunities in both New Zealand and the United States to support young practitioners in science and technology broadly, and to deepen our digital technology partnership.
Online and offline, we will advance the rights of all people in our societies, including women, minorities, and Indigenous peoples. We share a fervent commitment to gender equity and equality. We recognize that online harassment and abuse, particularly when targeted at women activists, journalists, and political figures, undermines the strength of democracies; Prime Minister Ardern committed New Zealand to join the Global Partnership for Action on Online Gender-Based Harassment and Abuse. We reaffirm our commitment to promoting human rights and democracy and countering corruption and authoritarianism globally, including through the Summit for Democracy Year of Action.
The two leaders committed to strengthening the U.S.-New Zealand strategic partnership across all areas of space cooperation. They welcomed the finalization of our bilateral Space Framework Agreement, which will facilitate future collaboration between the United States and New Zealand on the uses of outer space for peaceful purposes. They also looked forward to the initiation of joint feasibility studies under the Framework Agreement in support of space exploration.
For 80 years, our diplomatic relationship has benefited our countries, the region, and the world. But today’s world demands new resolve and closer cooperation between us. The United States and Aotearoa New Zealand will strengthen our strategic partnership to meet the challenges of the 21st century, seize the opportunities of an interconnected economy, and work together to preserve the international rules-based system on which our security, prosperity, and sustainability depends. As they reaffirmed our countries’ unique partnership, President Biden and Prime Minister Ardern recalled the words inscribed on the Marine Corps Memorial plaque in Wellington, New Zealand: “To the people of New Zealand: If you ever need a friend, you have one.”
Background Press Call by a Senior Administration Official on President Biden’s Meeting with PM Ardern
12:50 P.M. EDT
MODERATOR: Great. Thank you. And thanks everyone for joining. Sorry for the delay. The meeting went a little bit over.
So just to quickly go over the ground rules for this: This call is on background, attributable to “senior administration officials.” The contents of this call are embargoed until the end of the call.
For your awareness and not for reporting, our speaker on the call is [senior administration official]. And he’s going to have some short remarks at the top, and then we’ll take some questions.
So, [senior administration official], over to you.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Great, thank you very much. And I appreciate all of you for joining. The meeting went, actually, significantly longer than expected, and so I apologize for those of you who were kept waiting. And so, we’ll try and keep this relatively short and take some questions.
The President and the Prime Minister met for well over an hour. The conversation was very warm, very direct, and there was a great understanding between the two of them, as you would expect. And there really was discussion about the shared vision for the Indo-Pacific and the importance, in particular, of stepping up engagement with the Pacific Island states. But really, discussion covered the broader Indo-Pacific region and the world.
The two leaders discussed the many ways in which we work together already on a variety of regional and global issues, but also ways in which we can step up our cooperation, in particular, to support the Pacific Island states as they face tremendous challenges from a variety of fronts — including, obviously, recovering from COVID and the economic impacts of the COVID pandemic, as well as climate change and other challenges.
They discussed the work that the United States and New Zealand do together on a range of issues, including how we cooperate on addressing common challenges in the broader Indo-Pacific region, including — and how we’re working together on the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework, which the President announced last week in Tokyo; as well as dealing with and addressing the climate crisis — ways in which we share visions for where the region — what the region can be doing to better support some of those vulnerable countries that are dealing with challenges caused by the climate crisis.
They also, as you would expect, discussed countering terrorism and dealing with radicalization, and ways in which that has fed violence, and the nexus with online as well as offline issues.
And I think that they also had some fairly detailed discussions about the importance of in-person engagement with the Pacific Island leaders, and the importance of continue — the United States working closely with New Zealand and other partners as we continue to step up our efforts to engage more effectively in the Pacific.
And they — there was also discussion of the shared history and shared perspectives and the ways in which United States and New Zealand have worked together over the years to deal with common challenges.
I think that the — you know, things that really stood out were just the warmth, the intimacy, the alignment on a variety of issues, the shared concern about the challenges caused by extremism, and particularly the online nexus, but more broadly, how to deal with the challenges of domestic violence and — or — sort of violence and terrorism domestically as well as internationally.
I think that the context for this is obviously the administration’s focus on the Indo-Pacific, which I’m sure all of you have seen both from the recent engagements in Washington with the ASEAN — the U.S.-ASEAN special summit, as well as the President’s trip to Korea and Japan last week, the launch of the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework, and the Quad meeting.
I think the discussion with Prime Minister Ardern really further highlighted the breadth and depth of the shared concerns about changes and challenges in the region and the fact that New Zealand continues to be a very close and very important U.S. partner.
I think that this is also in the context of — the fact that the United States is a Pacific nation, and the region remains an enduring foreign policy priority for the United States.
And then, you know, in addition to the examples I just cited, we’ve been working on stepping up our engagement in the Pacific and doing this in close — with close consultation with New Zealand, as well as other important partners and Pacific Island states themselves.
You will have seen that Secretary Blinken announced — visited Fiji in February. He was the first U.S. Secretary of State to visit there in 36 years. While there, he rolled out the U.S. Indo-Pacific Strategy, which we think — you know, it was a very important signal to do that in the Pacific and in Fiji.
He also announced that the U.S. intends to open an embassy in the Solomon Islands in Honiara and that the U.S. is working to expand our diplomatic footprint and presence throughout the region and to better harness and work with the programs that we do have that are both regional and global, as well as our direct engagements in the region, and to work more closely with partners.
Last year in August 2021, the President became the first U.S. president to ever address the Pacific Islands Forum leaders meeting. And this was — the meeting was remote but the President took great satisfaction in that address, which we believe strengthened the engagement and relationship with the region.
And I think that as part of our focus on the Pacific, we recognize the tremendous importance of concluding negotiations with the freely associated states of the Republic of Marshall Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia, and Palau. And in order to do that and to be able to regain momentum on that and to try and conclude these agreements which we believe are vital for the United States as well as for the countries concerned, the President appointed Ambassador Joseph Yun as Special Presidential Envoy for Compact Negotiations. And this was only the third Special Presidential Envoy designation in the administration.
Also recognizing the tremendous demand and something that New Zealand and other countries have been very clear in the importance of trying to address this challenge of trying to provide better maritime domain awareness of capability throughout the region but particularly in the Pacific, we announced the Indo-Pacific Partnership for Maritime Domain Awareness at the Quad meeting in Tokyo last week.
This program and this partnership will offer a near real-time, integrated and cost-effective maritime domain awareness picture and will transform the ability of partners in the Pacific Islands, Southeast Asia, the Indian Ocean region to fully monitor the waters in their exclusive economic zones, which we believe both helps them in terms of their own interests but also helps strengthen the ability to deliver a free and open Indo-Pacific.
The administration is working closely also with traditional partners in the region — including Australia, New Zealand, Japan, France, the United Kingdom — on climate, maritime security, infrastructure, education, and post-COVID economic recovery issues.
And you may have seen that, just last week, we announced Fiji as the 14th founding partner for the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework, which will help set the rules for the digital economy; strengthen supply chains and lower costs, as well as tackling corruption that drags down our economies, our companies, and our workers; and then try and work more effectively to address the challenge of climate change and decarbonization while also trying to seize the economic potential benefits that come from that.
You will be seeing a joint statement that goes into more detail on the U.S.-New Zealand partnership and the issues that we’ve been working on as part of this visit. And I think that reflects the extraordinary closeness and — of the relationship, the progress has been made over the years, and the fact that New Zealand remains a very close and important partner to the United States, and that the leaders have a very, very close relationship that is really based on shared perspectives on the world, as well as an understanding of the importance of working together.
So, with that, let me take some questions.
MODERATOR: Great. Thanks, [senior administration official].
Q Hi, thank you for taking my call. I have two questions about the meeting. The first one is: Did the leaders discuss this economic and security deal that has been attempted by China and, so far, rejected by the Pacific Island countries? Is this something that the U.S. is concerned about? What are you planning to do to increase engagement in the region beyond what you’ve just outlined?
And then, the second question is: Did the leaders discuss New Zealand’s military support for Ukraine? I understand, so far, they’ve given support for training soldiers. Did the Prime Minister indicate whether — or did the President encourage the Prime Minister to consider sending heavy weapons to Ukraine as well?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Thank you very much. So, on the first question, the two leaders discussed the importance of our respective engagement in the Pacific, and they discussed the challenges that the region faces, including the climate crisis as well as recovering from COVID.
They discussed the — they did not get into specific details about efforts by other countries, but they did discuss the importance of working together to present an affirmative vision for the region, as well as solidifying the traditional areas of cooperation and building new ones.
In the context of Ukraine, there — they did not get into specifics. There was — the President expressed great appreciation for New Zealand’s strong support for Ukraine in the face of the brutal Russian invasion and the importance of working together, as well as with the rest of the international community, to ensure support for Ukraine.
The President made clear his appreciation of the very significant steps that Ukraine is — that New Zealand has taken for this, and that this reflects very strong leadership on the part of the Prime Minister.
Q Hi. Yes, hi. Thank you very much. I just wanted to follow up on that last question and ask whether there — you know, there are any specific plans to step — you know, when the United States talks about the need to step up its game and for its allies and partners to do the same. Were there any specific steps that were discussed?
On the — also, on (inaudible), it seems that he was quite disparaging about IPEF (inaudible) China. I was wondering if you can comment on that.
And also, about the New Zealand Prime Minister’s view that while IPEF is all very well, it would be better if the United States rejoined what is now CPTPP.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Great, thank you. So I think that — a couple of things. First, with regard to IPEF, you know, we believe that this is a very significant step. And we are very pleased at the extraordinarily strong interest from throughout the region. It is — you know, fro- — I think, to us, it is interesting that, on one hand, that we have heard some disparagement of IPEF from China and then also some complaints that it doesn’t incl- — that China hasn’t been invited.
I think that our view is that IPEF is about working together to support a free and open Indo-Pacific, and that it is — that it is open to countries who support a free and open Indo-Pacific. And that we are very pleased — there has been — the interest that there has been from so many countries to join and that — that have been the chosen to be founding members.
I think that, you know, we also remember that, you know, there was similar disparagement at one point about the Quad, and the Quad turned out not to be (inaudible). And that, you know, we are interested in seeing how things evolve with the perceptions of IPEF.
I think that what we are pleased by is that the countries that have — that are participating clearly are very enthusiastic about the basic principles behind it.
With regard to discussions on CPTPP, I think the Prime Minister has made her views very clear. I think in this meeting, there was discussion about the importance of economic engagement. And I would note that we’re announcing the resumption of the TIFA discussions between the U.S. — or consultations between the U.S. and New Zealand.
I think that there is — there’s also — you know, she was very clear in her support and New Zealand’s — how pleased New Zealand is to be a founding member of IPEF and the importance of affirmative U.S. economic engagement in the region.
I think that the —
MODERATOR: [Senior administration official], are you still there? [Senior administration official], are you still there?
OPERATOR: Let me check. We may have lost him. He has disconnected from the call.
MODERATOR: All right. Could we just pause for a few minutes? Let me try to see what happened here.
And he is back.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Yes, I’m back. So sorry about that.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: So I think that on the — on the other questions about the economic partnership, I think that the two leaders did discuss the importance of broader economic engagement in the region and the importance of continuing to work very closely together.
I would note that we’re very grateful for New Zealand’s advice as we worked on the development of IPEF. nd New Zealand’s, you know, extreme sophistication and experience on regional economic and trade issues was particularly valuable in that.
So, I’m sorry. I apologize again for getting cut off. So hopefully that answered your question.
Q Thanks very much. So, two sperate questions. The first: When you were talking before, you said they did not discuss specific efforts from other countries. Was that in relation to China?
And secondly, with the Maritime Awareness Initiative out of the Quad, was there any sort of indication that New Zealand might be invited into such an agreement?
And also, just on the AUKUS arrangement between Australia and the U.S., was there any discussion around how New Zealand might be able to have some involvement in arrangements like that?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: So, let me start off on — you know, again, there was a general discussion about the challenges that the Pacific region faces. There weren’t — there was not a specific discussion about any specific initiatives that are coming out from any other countries. But I think there’s a general awareness of the need to make sure that we step up our efforts and our cooperation.
In terms of what that means, I think that it is about several different things. One is expanding U.S. engagement in the region. And as I mentioned, there was discussion about the importance of in-person meetings at the leader level.
There also was a discussion about expanding U.S. diplomatic presence and also looking to step up the various types of engagement on things having to do with climate, recovery from COVID, preparation for next pandemic, and, I think, a great deal of commonality of views.
So I think that in terms of the questions about the maritime domain awareness initiatives, I think that at this point that — we did not have discussions — or there was not a specific discussion about how New Zealand is going to play into that, but it was very clear that New Zealand is very supportive of the initiative.
In terms of AUKUS, there was no specific discussion about AUKUS itself, but this is something that is discussed in the — but part of that is because it had been addressed in the joint statement. And I think that there is a — I think an awareness of the potential that AUKUS offers as a platform for perhaps opening up other apertures for cooperation in the future.
And I think that more broadly, there was support for the importance of greater engagement by outside partners, as we see in AUKUS, in terms of trying to ensure a free and open Indo-Pacific.
Q Thank you. Did the two leaders discuss gun control? And in particular, did the Prime Minister urge President Biden to embrace the gun buyback programs and a ban on assault weapons like New Zealand has done in the last few years? And could you just give us a sense of what that conversation was like if — if they did discuss the Uvalde situation?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Look, they discussed domestic extremism and the challenges that poses. And the Prime Minister discussed the Christchurch Call to Action and the responses that New Zealand had done after the tragic attack in Christchurch.
They just — they both share a very strong concern about the slaughter of innocents that these kinds of extremist attacks pose. There was — she did not urge the President to any specific course of action, but there was discussion about the challenges that these — and the horrible cost of these kinds of attacks.
I think that there is a — you know, she was — she offered her sympathy, and the President appreciated that very much. It was very clear that, you know, she has, as you would expect, a particular understanding of the extraordinarily difficult challenges that these kinds of attacks pose both at the — you know, in terms of the actual victims, but then, more broadly, the longer-term consequences for survivors and first responders.
So, it was a very — it was a very powerful discussion. But it was not one where she urged a particular course of action on the President, but rather expressed a broad understanding for what the United States is going through.
MODERATOR: Great. All right, well, thanks everyone for joining.
As a reminder, this call was on background, attributable to a “senior administration official.” And the embargo on the contents of the call will lift as soon as the call is over.
Thanks for joining. If you have any more questions, let me know.
1:12 P.M. EDT