Ardern, Morrison lays wreaths at memorial

The prime ministers of Australia and New Zealand have laid wreaths at a war memorial ahead of formal talks on China and the vaccine rollout in the Pacific.

Scott Morrison and Jacinda Ardern are in Queenstown for the annual Australia-New Zealand Leaders Forum.

Mr Morrison is making a whistlestop trip: he’s in Aotearoa for just under 24 hours, and the actual talks will take less than three hours.

The pair started their day by laying wreaths at the Arrowtown War Memorial, before settling into their policy agenda.

Both have dropped hints about what will be discussed.

China is a major talking point.

New Zealand has signalled it will join Australia in a World Trade Organisation dispute with China after the superpower levied tariffs against Australia on barley.

“We rely on the rules-based trading system to provide a secure and predictable global trading environment for everyone so we will act to uphold it,” NZ trade minister Damien O’Connor said.

The move is a sign the two trans-Tasman allies, each heavily trade-dependent on China, are unified.

Mr Morrison said the Australia-New Zealand partnership “will be even more vital in the years ahead as we both confront an increasingly challenging geostrategic environment”.

“These talks will be an important opportunity for us to continue our efforts to support an open, inclusive and resilient Indo-Pacific,” he added.

Mr Morrison has referenced a possible biosecurity deal being announced on Monday.

Both leaders are expected to discuss their commitment to rolling out COVID-19 vaccine in the Pacific.

Addressing business leaders on Sunday night, Ms Ardern said she was most eager to talk about the next phase of COVID-19 planning.

“The path that New Zealand and Australia carved (during COVID-19) was unique, and it continues to be unique,” Ms Ardern said.

“That however means there is no rulebook for us.

“We’re both looking forward to the next day of talks, that next stage of writing the rulebook.

“As we both grapple with the challenge of how we safely re-open ourselves up to the world, whilst holding on to all the gains we’ve made, those are conversations that I would love to be able to have together – to write that rule book together.”

Mr Morrison agreed.

“The relative strength of our economies to the rest of the world, and indeed our health strength when it comes to COVID, stands out amongst nations of the world,” he said.

“Shared prosperity is realised through what we’ve been able to achieve both through COVID and now opening up.

“Let’s see how much further that can go.”

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