New Zealand’s Ardern Wants to Balance Trade Pact With Housing Pledge
Incoming New Zealand leader Jacinda Ardern said her new government can pursue membership in the proposed Trans Pacific Partnership while honoring her election campaign pledge to clamp down on foreign property speculators.
“There has to be a balance between delivering for our exporters but also making sure we can protect the ability of New Zealanders to buy homes,” Ardern told Sky News on Sunday. “Our view is we can do both.”
Improving housing affordability is a key target for Ardern after outgoing Prime Minister Bill English was criticized by some voters for failing to respond to a surge in prices that’s seen home ownership fall to the lowest level since 1951. While she wants to encourage construction of cheap, smaller homes, her bid to deter foreign buyers who have helped to drive up values may put the nation at odds with future TPP regulations.
After President Donald Trump withdrew from U.S.-led TPP negotiations shortly after taking office, some of the remaining 11 nations in the pact — including New Zealand under English — have lobbied to keep it going. Next month, trade ministers from the TPP group are due to present their proposal for the future of the deal to leaders at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Da Nang, Vietnam.
Ardern, 37, will become the world’s youngest female leader less than three months after taking the reins of Labour. New Zealand First leader Winston Peters backed Ardern to rule on Thursday after 12 days of negotiations, even though her Labour Party finished second in the Sept. 23 election when the ruling National Party failed to secure a majority.
Even though Ardern has worried some investors with policies such as pledging to reform the central bank, cut immigration and boost spending on welfare, she insists that her Labour Party believes in the benefits of free trade.
“We have signed significant free-trade agreements; we’ll continue to do so in the future,” she told Sky News.