(Reuters) – New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern will visit the United States this week in a bid to boost exports and lure more tourists as the Pacific nation looks to fully reopen its border after more than two years of restrictions.
Ardern’s visit comes as U.S. President Joe Biden is on a five-day trip to South Korea and Japan. Her public agenda does not include a meeting with Biden, who is expected to return to Washington on Tuesday.
“New Zealand’s relationship with the United States is one of our most enduring and significant. This mission will feature political and security engagement as well as tourism and trade promotion,” Ardern said in a statement on Monday.
Bilateral trade between the countries was worth about NZ$18.5 billion ($12 billion) in 2021, with annual growth averaging 5% over the past 15 years, official data showed.
U.S. travellers were New Zealand’s third-largest tourism market, forming 10% of total arrivals before the emergence of COVID-19.
“With travellers planning their visits months before coming in the New Zealand summer, now is the right time to be visible in the U.S. market letting Americans know we are open for business and travel,” Ardern said.
New Zealand’s closure of its border to non-citizens in March 2020 helped keep COVID-19 numbers relatively low. Ardern early this month said the country would fully reopen its border from the end of July.
Ardern, who will leave on Monday evening after recovering from a recent COVID-19 infection, will meet U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres in New York and senior members of the Senate in Washington, DC. She will also deliver Harvard University’s commencement address in Boston.
($1 = 1.5652 New Zealand dollars)
(Reporting by Renju Jose in Sydney; Editing by Bradley Perrett)